Stunning astronaut photos show Australia’s outback ‘like an open geology book’


German astronaut Alexander Gerst posts many extraordinary views from his lofty perch in the International Space Station.

The European Space Agency astronaut and geophysicist has posted videos and photos from orbit showing the extreme power of Hurricane Florence, an amazing timelapse of the Southern Lights, and dramatic views of extreme fires burning in California.

Now, he’s posted a rare view of Australia’s spectacular natural red rock formation, Uluru (also previously known as Ayers Rock), which sits in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Uluu-Kata Tjua National Park in the country’s Northern Territory.

Sitting about 450 kilometers from the town of Alice Springs in what’s known as the Red Centre, Uluru is one of Australia’s most popular natural tourist destinations, but it’s also a supremely sacred site for the land’s traditional owners, the Aangu people.

You can spot Uluru on the left side of Gerst’s left photo, as well as the ancient domed red rock formations of Kata Tjuṯa, also known as the Olgas, on the right side of the left photo.

French ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet posted a similarly stunning photograph of Uluru from the ISS in 2017. 

Gerst and Pesquet’s images are an exceptional digital way to enjoy Uluru from afar. You can also wander through the site using Google Street View. And you can do all this without climbing it. 

Although visitors to Uluru have been legally allowed to climb the rock formation since the 1930s, strong resistance to this from the land’s traditional owners has resulted in a vote to ban the practice. The ban will come into effect on Oct. 26, 2019.

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