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Space Station Astronaut Photographs, Tweets Gaza Conflict

Alexander Gerst's tweet
Astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted this view of conflict from space. Via Twitter.

Even in space, astronauts can’t escape troubles on Earth. International Space Station crew member Alexander Gerst tweeted an image of  “explosions and rockets” flying over Gaza and Israel on Wednesday night, which was retweeted and liked tens of thousands of times.

The European Space Agency astronaut is aboard the orbiting lab, which travels some 261 miles (420 kilometers) above the Earth, circling the planet once roughly every 90 minutes. The space station’s orbit regularly carries the crew over Israel, where the most recent conflict started on July 17, with a ground invasion of Gaza.

“My saddest photo yet,” Gerst said in his tweet. His Twitter feed usually holds prettier pictures of Earth as seen from space.

On social media, some readers wondered whether rockets and explosions would really be viewable from space, amid the interference of city lights on the ground.

“At night I’m sure the ISS astronauts could see the flash of explosions and subsequent fires,” says Allen Thompson, a former CIA Soviet analyst. “Certainly with binoculars or other optics, like a telephoto lens. Maybe even with the naked eye, though I’m not sure of that.”