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See a SpaceX rocket photobomb the moon in incredible award-winning shot

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A rocket transiting the moon is a pretty rare sight. Capturing a good photo of that kind of transit takes some serious skill.

That skill is worthy of some major praise. Pascal Fouquet, a photographer from Orlando, Florida, captured such a shot, and was chosen as the United States' National Award first place winner for the Sony World Photography Awards 2024. The awards program comes out of a partnership between Sony and the World Photography Organization, and receives hundreds of thousands of photo submission from across the globe.

Fouquet captured his winning shot of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket passing in front of the moon just before the new year, when SpaceX launched the United States Space Force X-37B spaceplane on the USSF-52 mission. The uncrewed X-37B spacecraft lifted off atop Falcon Heavy from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on Dec. 28, at 8:07 p.m. EST (0107 GMT on Dec. 29).

Fouquet realized the upcoming opportunity to try and nail that shot less than 48 hours before the launch took place, he told Space.com. "Scouting for an ideal location proved challenging, given the limited spots available for capturing the shot. Ultimately, I settled on a somewhat unconventional choice — an open field behind a hospice center 13.8 miles away from the launch pad," he said in an email.

Related: Space photo of the week: Bruce McCandless II floats untethered as the 1st 'human satellite' in history

(Image credit: Pascal Fouquet, United States, Winner, National Awards, Sony World Photography Awards 2024)
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The trick, Fouquet said, was to expose the camera to capture the details of the moon, not the rocket. Shot with a Nikon D850, Fouquet set his shutter speed to just 1/1600 of a second, capturing the split second moment Falcon Heavy passed in front of the moon.

This was the seventh launch for the Space Force's secretive X-37B space plane, which remains in orbit at the time of this publication. On its last mission, X-37B broke its own on-orbit record after returning from its mission that lasted 908 days.

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