A surreal photograph shows a passenger jet silhouetted dramatically in the night sky—as it flies across the center of the full moon in a “once-in-a-lifetime” shot.
Photographer Ralph Symth, 57, had set up his camera to photograph the once-a-year “snow moon”—the name given to the full moon that occurs in February.
But Ralph ended up capturing something much more rare than the annual lunar event—as he saw an airplane perfectly intersect the large, bright, silvery moon.
The aircraft, which was still in the midst of takeoff, sped across the moon in the space of just one second—but Ralph managed to catch on camera its path as it was illuminated in the night sky.
And Ralph, from Lisburn, Northern Ireland, later found out that the aircraft was an easyJet flight that had only taken off from Belfast International Airport four minutes prior to his photos.
“It was very fortuitous—I was so lucky to get it on camera,” said Ralph, a retired chemist.
“It might even be a once-in-a-lifetime photo. I was only there to capture the snow moon, which only happens at a certain time of year.
“But to then capture a plane flying smack bang through the middle of that moon, and especially during COVID times when there are less flights anyway, was so lucky.
“I spoke to another local photographer afterwards who said he has been trying for years to get that shot.
“It was just a case of being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it’s the unplanned things that work out the best.”
Ralph captured the photo at 6:04 p.m. on Feb. 25—just four minutes after the plane had departed from Belfast International Airport, bound for London Gatwick.
“I almost missed it—I had my camera equipment set up to automatically start shooting the moon as it rose, so at that particular moment I wasn’t actually looking at the moon,” he said.
“But then out of the corner of my eye, on my laptop screen, I saw something black move across the center of the moon as my camera was shooting.
“I have seen birds crossing the moon before and thought nothing of it—but this was a lot bigger.
“I was so surprised to see it was a plane. I hadn’t even heard the thing coming, because I was just focused on the moon and obviously wasn’t listening out for a plane engine.”
With his camera recording at three frames per second, Ralph managed to perfectly capture three photos of the plane as it crossed from one side of the moon to the other.
He added, “What I like about it is that if you look really closely, you can see that the fuel from the engine kind of distorts the moon behind it.
“It was really just a bonus to capture that happening. I still can’t believe it.”