A plume of black smoke blowing westward is silhouetted against linear dunes in the great sand sea of northeast Libya. Smoke from flares at remote well heads is commonly seen by astronauts flying over the Sahara Desert. The plume dispersal pattern visible at the left edge of the image may be due to upper-level winds or gravitational settling of heavier particulates.
The regular pattern of linear dunes is generated by two major winds: the dominant north wind (north is towards the top right) determines the orientation of the sand dunes. Gentler easterly winds, as were blowing when this view was taken, make the dunes asymmetric, with a gentle windward (west) slope and an oversteepened downwind slope. Some oversteepened slopes even cast shadows in the early morning light. One mound of sand (top right), due north of the well head, does not fit the pattern of linear dunes. This type is known as a star dune.
Astronaut photograph ISS005-E-11189 was acquired August 25, 2002 with a Kodak 760C digital camera with an 800 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and the Image Science & Analysis Group, Johnson Space Center. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.
- ISS - Digital Camera