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Image: Chris Hadfield
Canadian Space Agency
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield strums a guitar while playing Christmas carols and gazing at Earth from the International Space Station.
By Managing editor
updated 12/28/2012 2:09:08 PM ET 2012-12-28T19:09:08

Call him the space guitar hero: An astronaut living in orbit has penned a musical ode to Earth in what he's billing as the first original song recorded on the International Space Station.

The song, called "Jewel in the Night," is a holiday-themed tune recorded by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield just days after arriving at the space station last week, just in time for Christmas.

Hadfield and two crewmates docked at the space station on Dec. 21. He recorded the tune two days later, and then posted it online on Christmas Eve via YouTube, Twitter and soundcloud.com.

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"Here's some of the first original music written for and performed on the international space station," Hadfield wrote on Twitter, where he is chronicling his spaceflight under the name @Cmdr_Hadfield. [Hear the Song: 'Jewel in the Night' Video]

Hadfield performed "Jewel in the Night" on a Larrivée Parlor acoustic guitar (made in Vancouver) that has been aboard the space station for years. The tune has a folk song feel and starts off:

So bright, jewel in the night, there in my window below.
So bright, dark as the night, with all of our cities aglow.
It's long been our way to honor this day, and offer goodwill to men.
And though, wherever we go, it's come round to Christmas again.

Hadfield, 53, is a veteran astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency and currently serves as a flight engineer with the station's current Expedition 34 crew. He will be the first Canadian space station commander when he takes charge of the outpost's Expedition 35 phase next year.

Music has a special place in Hadfield's heart and is among his passions. Before launch, he had a special guitar pick made to resemble his Expedition 35 mission patch.

"I play guitar in a couple bands and sing. I've fronted bands here in Houston for 20 years, and it's just a natural extension for me to play music no matter where I am, whether it's at Star City or Tsukuba, Japan, or on board the space station; I played guitar on board Mir when I was there back in 1995," Hadfield said in a preflight NASA interview. "I thought, since I'm there long enough, why not write music about the experience of traveling in space."

Hadfield said that early pioneers, sailors and miners all created songs about the exploration of new frontiers on Earth. So it is only natural for the tradition to continue as humanity expands into the cosmos.

Since arriving at the International Space Station this month, Hadfield has posted several photos of the guitar he is using and himself playing music in space. On Christmas Day, he strummed the guitar as his five Expedition 34 crewmates (two Americans and three Russians) serenaded Mission Control flight controllers with traditional Christmas carols.

"I'm not by any means the world's best musician, but I love it and I’ve had lots of people to play music with," said Hadfield, who will return to Earth in May 2013. "To be able to do that on space station is fairly new in the human experience and I want to make the most of it."

You can follow SPACE.com Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter@tariqjmalik. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter@Spacedotcomand onFacebook.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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