A German astronaut has tweeted a picture of Banks Peninsula from high above Earth.

Alexander Gerst, who has a Masters in Earth sciences from Victoria University in Wellington, is aboard the International Space Station.

"Nice view of Banks Peninsula in #NewZealand. Magnificent scenery, used to hike there often...," he tweeted.

He was launched there last month from Kazakhstan and will carry out a number of experiments before returning to Earth in November.


Dr Gerst has taken with him a piece of pumice that originated during the Taupo eruption almost 1800 years ago.

Nice view of Banks Peninsula in #NewZealand. Magnificent scenery, used to hike there often... #BlueDot pic.twitter.com/vlaoOlXF9T

Dr Gerst, who studied under geophysics professor Martha Savage at the Institute of Geophysics several years ago, asked her to contribute an item to take on the journey and she gave him the rectangular piece of pumice, measuring 2.5cm and weighing just over 14g.

"I chose it because it's lightweight and small, and beautifully represents the University and the highly regarded earth sciences programme we run here, which Dr Gerst was part of for a time," Professor Savage said.

She said being able to provide an item for the flight provided an exciting opportunity for Victoria University to be part of Dr Gerst's first-ever space exploration.

"It's also a reminder of the kind of things talented students like Dr Gerst go on to achieve with a Victoria University education."

After completing his Master's degree at Victoria, Dr Gerst gained a PhD in volcanology from the University of Hamburg in Germany. He then joined the European Space Agency and trained as an astronaut.