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Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II draws crowds of mourners so large they're visible from space

A satellite photo showing Big Ben surrounded by a huge crowd of mourners for Queen Elizabeth II in London.
A satellite photo showing Big Ben surrounded by a huge crowd of mourners for Queen Elizabeth II in London on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. (Image credit: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)

Earth-imaging satellites have spied the massive crowds that gathered in London for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Images taken by the WorldView-3 satellite operated by Colorado-based satellite company Maxar Technologies on Saturday (Sept. 17) show hundreds of thousands of mourners queueing up to pay their respects to the late Queen, who passed away at the age of 96 on Sept. 8. 

In the images, crowds can be seen waiting patiently in 'The Queue,' which stretched over 10 miles (16 kilometers), snaking alongside famous London landmarks such as the Eye of London, Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster, the seat of England's parliament.

Related: NASA, other space agencies mourn passing of Queen Elizabeth II

Read more: Queue for the Queen: Huge line of Queen Elizabeth II mourners visible from space (satellite photos)

The Queen's body and coffin lay in state at Westminster Hall from Sept. 14 to Sept. 19 before being lowered into the Royal Vault (opens in new tab) beneath St. George's Chapel to be laid to rest alongside her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who passed away in 2021.

Emotional outpourings from NASA, other space agencies and leading figures in the space community followed the news of the Queen's passing. "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's influence reached all corners of the world, and we are so fortunate that we had the privilege of hosting her visit to @NASA_Johnson. We join the planet in honoring her memory," officials from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab) on Sept. 8. 

"ESA is saddened by the passing of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. Her Majesty witnessed the dawn of the space age, meeting astronauts from Neil Armstrong to Britain's own Tim Peake, who gifted her with the Union Flag patch from his spacewalk during the Principia mission," the European Space Agency tweeted the same day (opens in new tab).

As NASA's official Twitter account pointed out on the day of her passing (opens in new tab), Queen Elizabeth II was crowned before the launch of Sputnik kicked off the era of spaceflight in earnest. In September 1969, Queen Elizabeth welcomed Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to Buckingham Palace to celebrate the mission's successful landing on the moon.

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Brett Tingley
Editor, Space.com

Brett is a science and technology journalist who is curious about emerging concepts in spaceflight and aerospace, alternative launch concepts, anti-satellite technologies, and uncrewed systems. Brett's work has appeared on The War Zone at TheDrive.com, Popular Science, the History Channel, Science Discovery, and more. Brett has English degrees from Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In his free time, Brett is a working musician, a hobbyist electronics engineer and cosplayer, an avid LEGO fan, and enjoys hiking and camping throughout the Appalachian Mountains with his wife and two children.