Last Friday's blood moon was the longest total lunar eclipse of the entire century, lasting a whopping hour and 43 minutes. The eclipse wasn't visible in North America, but could be seen in areas of Africa, the Middle East, southern Asia, and the Indian Ocean region. If you got to see it in the flesh, I'm pretty jealous — but those of us that didn't get a chance to are still in luck. The super cool-looking phenomenon occurs when the Earth comes between the sun and moon and covers the moon with its shadow, and as a result, the moon can turn red (explaining its nickname of "blood moon"). Just days ago, an astronaut captured pictures of the blood moon from space.
Alexander Gerst, German astronaut and geophysicist, began traveling toward the International Space Station (a habitable artificial satellite in low Earth orbit) on June 6. According to the European Space Agency (ESA), Gerst is "the first of ESA’s class of 2009 astronauts who will be sent into space for a second time," and he is currently on spaceflight Soyuz MS-09 with NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Russian spacecraft commander Sergei Prokopyev. So far on the journey, Gerst has captured some incredible shots of Earth and the moon — including the total lunar eclipse.
Though he described the shot as "tricky to capture," Gerst came to the International Space Station (ISS) as prepared as he possibly could be. Before taking off, he spent some time training to use all of the complex photography gear available at the ISS. "The slight hue of blue is actually the Earth's atmosphere, just before the Moon is 'diving into it,'" Gerst explains in a caption under the photo on Twitter. The stage of the blood moon when the moon begins to cross into Earth's central shadow — the umbra — is what Gerst captured in his stunning shot. After the eclipse's partial phases begin at this stage, the pace of the phenomenon quickens and the results are visibly dramatic. The subtle hue of orange-red in the picture appeared as the moon's disk moved deeper into the umbra. Gerst was also able to get some shots of the partially eclipsed moon, which are just as awe-inducing.
Zoom in on this one — trust me, it's worth it. Against a gradient view of outer space, the partial eclipse stands out in all its glory. Ah, the big orange peel in the sky. "A partially eclipsed Moon, with our neighboring planet in the background, just before diving into Earth's atmosphere. Just magical," Gerst tweeted along with two images of the incredible eclipse stage. He was able to get one last truly out-of-this-world shot before the record-breaking event ended.
"Caught the Moon leaving Earth's core shadow, just before setting over the South Atlantic," Gerst commented about the last shot. There's something so mesmerizing about this one, I just can't tear my eyes away. Imagine actually getting to look at that with your own two eyes from space — `is it too late for me to become an astronaut? If you want to see more breathtaking pictures from up above, check out Gerst's Twitter profile (I wonder what provider he's using to tweet from space when I can't even get connection in some parts of my own house).