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Rocket Launch to ISS Looks Like Ascending Angel in This Stunning Space Photo

Three new crew members took off for the ISS as current crew members in space caught sight of the launch.

An exhaust plume shows against a dark background. Part of the plume look like a robed angel, wings extended upward.
This view from the ISS of a Soyuz rocket launch from Sept. 21, 2022, is like an inkblot test for space fans. I see an angel at the bottom of the plume. What do you see? 
Samantha Cristoforetti/ESA

Space can be poetic, and sometimes that poetry is visual. A wild view of a crewed Russian Soyuz launch on Wednesday looks to me like an angelic figure, wings spread, ascending toward orbit. 

The photo comes from European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who's currently on board the International Space Station. "We had a spectacular view of the Soyuz launch!" Cristoforetti tweeted along with two photos taken from the station.

Cristoforetti's first photo is where I see the angel near the bottom of the plume. It's the same shape you get when you stretch out in the snow and wave your arms and legs. 

The Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft was crewed by NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin. It safely docked to the ISS. Though US relations with Russia are fraught over the Ukraine invasion, the space rideshare with Roscosmos and NASA went off smoothly. 

The ISS views of the launch are ethereal. You can compare that perspective to a NASA image taken from the ground in Kazakhstan.

The Roscosmos Soyuz MS-22 rocket takes off with one NASA astronaut and two cosmonauts on board on Sept. 21, 2022.

NASA/Bill Ingalls

Cristoforetti's luminous photo reminds me of the time when ESA spotted an "angelic figure" complete with a halo in a Mars surface formation. It's all about finding joy in the space experience, the poetry within the science.