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Pentagon releases selfie of US pilot flying above Chinese spy balloon

Picture was taken from the jet as the balloon entered US airspace earlier this month, before it was shot down over the Atlantic

The spy balloon was first spotted by the public above Montana. Photograph: Department of Defense/Getty Images

The Pentagon has released a selfie photograph snapped by the pilot of a U2 spy plane that was hurtling through the skies above the Chinese spy balloon as the US military pursued and shot it down off the coast of South Carolina earlier this month.

The image clearly shows the mysterious, silvery-white sphere of the balloon with panels dangling below it and, whether intended artistically or not, a striking sight of the shadow of the US aircraft cast against the balloon.

The picture was snapped by the airman on the flight deck as the balloon entered the airspace above the continental US at high altitude. The selfie was first reported by CNN.

Close-up of the apparatus under the balloon. Photograph: Department of Defense/Getty

The spy balloon was spotted by the public above Montana and tracked by US authorities as it moved across the country, causing a diplomatic rift between the US and China.

When the balloon made it across several states and over to the Atlantic Ocean, where the military deemed it safer to destroy it, it was shot down with a single missile fired from an F-22 Raptor fighter jet that took off from Langley air force base in Virginia.

The wreckage was retrieved and is being analyzed.

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