This mind-blowing image of last week's lunar eclipse is so deserving of Desktop wallpaper status, it hurts

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When I first saw this composite image of last week's lunar eclipse my jaw literally fell open. And then I clicked through to the hi-res version. Is this what a religious experience feels like?

This incredible sequence of photographs (hi-res version here) was captured from Beijing China, where — unlike here in the continental US — the eclipse could be viewed all the way from start to finish.


The composition of the photo is such that you can actually see the Moon pass through the southern half of Earth's umbra — the darkest region of the shadow that is projected into space when it blocks the Sun's rays.

Notice the specks of light that become visible towards the center of the image. During periods that the moon was dark, distant stars didn't have to compete with its light, allowing them to shine through to the camera's sensors. For those of you who stayed up to catch Tuesday night's Geminid meteor shower, this effect illustrates why light from the nearly full moon probably had an impact on your viewing experience.


Update: io9 reader Alesh created an enhanced mock-up of the composite image by overlaying the original series of photos on top of another picture from Hubble space telescope. End result: more (artificial) starry goodness. You'll find the hi-res version here.


Image by Wang, Letian via NASA