Beneath a Desert Moon

Beneath a Desert Moon

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this photo of the Earth and Moon while orbiting over Iraq (not pictured). Taken at an oblique angle from an altitude of 406 kilometers (252 miles), the photo has a perspective that highlights Earth’s atmospheric limb, or the edge of the atmosphere.

The blue-toned haze that fades into the darkness of space is the mesosphere, which reaches an altitude of about 80 kilometers (50 miles). Above the mesosphere is the thermosphere. Although this layer is part of Earth’s atmosphere, it is commonly considered part of outer space.

In the center of the image, Earth’s moon peeks over the horizon. The Moon is about 405,500 kilometers (251,000 miles) away from Earth at its furthest point, or apogee. In this image, the Moon is in the waning gibbous phase, which occurs between the full moon and half-moon phases.

Below the wispy clouds in the middle of the view is Lake Assad, a Euphrates River reservoir in northern Syria. Lake Assad is Syria’s largest lake and a primary source of the region’s drinking and irrigation water. The Tabqa Dam, which created the lake, is the largest hydroelectric dam in the country.

Astronaut photograph ISS069-E-18445 was acquired on June 8, 2023, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 25 millimeters. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 69 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Minna Adel Rubio, GeoControl Systems, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.