A German astronaut aboard the International Space Station has captured an image of the war in Gaza, calling the nighttime photo of the Gaza Strip "my saddest photo yet."
Alexander Gerst posted the image on Twitter of Gaza and Israel as seen from the ISS, and the photo has been retweeted more than 40,000 times.
"From #ISS we can actually see explosions and rockets flying over #Gaza & #Israel," he said in his tweet.
In the image Gaza and the surrounding area is visible as lines and clusters of lights indicating cities.
Gerst emphasized he was not using the image to make judgments against either Hamas or Israel.
"As astronauts we have a unique view of our planet looking down from 400 km (250 miles) above," he wrote Friday in a blog post on the European Space Agency's website. "Some things that on Earth we see in the news every day and thus almost tend to accept as a 'given,' appear very different from our perspective.
Gerst also ruminated about that fact that everyone single person on Earth shares the planet. Seen from above, neither borders nor cultural differences are visible, which only highlights the fact that human conflicts may be difficult to comprehend next to the vast backdrop of space.
Gerst said he was moved to take his camera to the orbiting station's Cupola module by a sight he'd never witnessed before of streaks of light and orange fireballs over the dark Earth.
It was only after taking the photographs, Gerst says, that he realized he was seeing evidence of the conflict in Gaza, which began with rockets fired from Gaza and has widened into ground warfare that has killed both Israelis and Palestinians.
The realization of what he was seeing, and what he had captured in the image, hit him hard, he says.
The orbit of the International Space Station, circling the earth every 90 minutes, regularly carries it over Israel and the Middle East.
Gerst, a volcanologists and geophysicist when he's on the Earth, is serving as a flight engineer on the ISS as part of a European Space Agency mission along with American astronaut and fellow flight engineer Reid Wiseman and a Russian flight commander, cosmonaut Maksim Surayev.