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See the ISS pass over Rome's Colosseum in 'once in a lifetime' image

A streak of light and an ancient monument meet in a stunning view from Italy.

The ISS transits over the Colosseum in Rome in this remarkable image captured on Dec. 6, 2021.
Gianluca Masi

The International Space Station is tricky to photograph from down on Earth. The station zips along at about 17,500 mph (28,000 km/h) and it's a small dot of light when spotted from below. Now think about that dot flying directly over the Colosseum in Rome, and you can appreciate why a new image is a "once in a lifetime" event.

Astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, who runs the Virtual Telescope Project, collaborated with the Parco archeologico del Colosseo to snap the ISS crossing over the Colosseum on Dec. 6. The image is a wild upward view with the walls of the historic amphitheater appearing in a circle and the ISS seen as a streak of light in the night sky.

"Looking at the starry sky, with those thousand-year-old walls embracing the ancient constellations and the passing, modern ISS, was undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Masi said in a statement on Thursday. 

Masi also released an annotated version of the image showing constellations marked and labeled, from Pegasus to Ursa Minor.

An annotated version of the ISS transit over the Colosseum in Rome highlights the constellations in the night sky.

Gianluca Masi

The Colosseum is nearly 2,000 years old. The ISS has been in space for over 20 years. They are very different kinds of monuments, but they meld together beautifully in an image that speaks to the past and the present and how far humans have traveled.