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Sympathy for Boston from space

Chris Hadfield / CSA via Twitter

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield passed along this picture of Boston at night, as seen from the International Space Station, in recognition of the city's tragedy.

Monday's Boston Marathon bombing prompted expressions of sympathy from humanity's farthest-flung outpost: the International Space Station.

"Our crew just heard about the horrible events at the Boston Marathon," the space station's commander, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, wrote in a Twitter update. "We all pass along our condolences and thoughts to everyone affected."

Later, Hadfield tweeted a picture of the city at night in recognition of "a somber spring night in Boston."

Even though the space station wheels around our planet at a height of 230 miles (370 kilometers) or so, the crew stays in touch with earthly news through official NASA communications as well as Internet links that make use of the space agency's TDRS satellite network. For example, the space station has been receiving a digital version of NBC Nightly News for years.

All that altitude gives the station's crew a unique perspective on Earth's tragedies. On Sept. 11, 2001, NASA astronaut Frank Culbertson looked down on the smoke streaming from the wreckage of New York's World Trade Center. "It was like seeing a wound in the side of your country, of your family, your friends," he said years later. Last October, astronauts watched as Superstorm Sandy blasted its way toward the East Coast.

The horrible events in Boston may not have been visible from space — but Hadfield's tweets demonstrate how we connect during times of tragedy, even when we're off the planet.

More perspectives from space:

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other science and space news coverage, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered via email. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about dwarf planets and the search for new worlds.