Wow! Space Station Crosses Moon's Face Just Before Epic Lunar Eclipse (Photos)

ISS transits Jan 30, 2018 full moon
NASA photographer Bill Ingalls captured this shot of the International Space Station transiting the full moon on Tuesday (Jan. 30) from Alexandria, Virginia.  (Image credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA)

A spectacular photo shows the International Space Station (ISS) crossing the face of the moon in the lead-up to Wednesday morning's (Jan. 31) long-awaited "Super Blue Blood Moon" eclipse.

NASA photographer Bill Ingalls captured the shot from Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday (Jan. 30) — a day before the full moon plunged into Earth's shadow in the first total lunar eclipse since September 2015. 

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NASA astronaut Bill Ingalls captured this view of the International Space Station crossing the face of the moon on Jan. 30, 2018 from Alexandria, Virginia. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)


There's a lot more to say about Wednesday's skywatching spectacle, of course. The eclipse involved a moon that was both "blue" (it was the second full moon of January) and "super" (it was near the closest point to Earth along the moon's elliptical orbit). 

The "blood" part, by the way, refers to the coppery-red color the moon often assumes during a total eclipse. This comes from reddish wavelengths of sunlight refracted by Earth's atmosphere onto the lunar surface. (Other wavelengths are shorter and get scattered by molecules in our air.)

Such an eclipse hadn't occurred anywhere in the world since 1982, and not in the United States in more than 150 years. 

The ISS is currently fully staffed, with six crewmembers on board. They are NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei and Scott Tingle; cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov; and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. 

In case you're wondering, it looks like the space station's crew was not able to see the Super Blue Blood Moon eclipse. The eclipse occurred while the crew was busy working, and most of the station's windows point down toward the Earth, making it hard to bring the moon in view. Kanai shared that news Wednesday on Twitter after the lunar eclipse ended. 

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.