spaceSpace and Physics

Incredible Photo From The ISS Captures “Space Angel”. What Do You See?

First thoughts on seeing this photo really were “what am I looking at?”


Katy Evans

Katy is Managing Editor at IFLScience where she oversees editorial content from News articles to Features, and even occasionally writes some.

Managing Editor

A great blue slanting line that swoops across the dark image is actually the edge of Earth from the ISS. In the middle is strange white squiggle, a bit like a line of smoke that ends in light being refracted into the shape of a snow angel
The world’s first space Rorschach inkblot test? Image credit: Samantha Cristoforetti/ESA

Incredible photos of space from space are not that unusual. From the vantage point of the International Space Station (ISS), basically everywhere you look is fascinating, strange, or beautiful. Occasionally, however, you get a “wow, er, what even is that?”

European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who will become commander of the ISS next Wednesday – the first female ESA astronaut to do so and only the fourth woman ever – regularly shares photos and interesting facts about life on board the space station.


On September 21, Cristoforetti tweeted two incredible photos that appear to show either a great swooping space angel, "chemtrails", or an ominous hole, depending on who you ask. As CNET suggested, it also works as a giant Rorschach inkblot test.  

A trail thrpugh the atmosphere shows the Soyuz capsule heading towards the ISS
We see you coming. Image credit: Samantha Cristoforetti/ESA

What we're actually looking at is the incoming Soyuz spacecraft that launched three new crew members to the ISS on Wednesday, September 21. 

"We had a spectacular view of the #Soyuz launch! Sergey, Dmitry and Frank will come knocking on our door in just a couple of hours… looking forward to welcoming them to their new home!" Cristoforetti tweeted.

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin of Roscosmos did indeed dock a couple of hours later, demonstrating that – for now at least – space relations between the US and Russia are still cordial. 


Cristoforetti's official handing over ceremony takes place on Wednesday, September 28, and will be broadcast live from the ISS on ESA Web TV


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