But this week, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst shared what he called his "saddest photo yet" -- an image snapped above the Middle East. On Twitter, the German-born astronaut said that "explosion and rockets" could be seen from the station as it passed over Gaza and Israel -- where there has been bloody conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants.
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— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) July 23, 2014
The landmass in the photo appears to show a sideways view of Israel. As Vox.com reported, north is to the right in the photo and south to the left; so the dark area at the top is the Mediterranean Sea and the brightest spot on the coast is Tel Aviv, which is just 44 miles north of Gaza City.
Some media outlets have questioned whether explosions can actually be discerned in Gerst's photo. "The images show what seem to be bursts of light and bright lines that could be rocket trails. But it is not possible to say with any certainty whether the images show rocket explosions," writes Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
PetaPixel points out that what was visible to Gerst on the ISS may not translate exactly to a single still image: "It could very well be that Gerst was watching various rockets flying about and explosions lighting up the ground, but that would be very difficult to capture effectively from space."
Conflict in the territory escalated this month after Israel launched a ground offensive to curb rocket fire from Hamas and its allies. The death toll in Gaza -- where many civilians and children have been killed in the crossfire -- hit 687 this week, according to The Associated Press.
This article has been updated with additional information about questions that have been raised about what is depicted in the photograph.