Every month we offer a puzzling satellite image here on Earth Matters. Every month someone seems to figure it out quickly. So in December 2013, we threw down the gauntlet.
For the first time, we put a false-color image—this swirl of purple and pink—into play. A week later, we have received many thoughtful responses but no one came up with the answer. The puzzler this month was a swatch of the Gulf Stream as seen in the infrared by the Thermal Infrared Sensor on Landsat 8.
A number of you came pretty close. Kevin Acosta was one of the first to speculate that we were looking at ocean currents, though he guessed it was the Benguela and Agulhas currents south of South Africa. Eric pointed out it was a false-color image of heat, but he was focused on the Great Lakes as opposed to ocean currents.
I was impressed by the sheer diversity of ideas that flowed in. I’ve included a few of the more creative responses below.
“Looks like part of a red algae bloom or ‘red tide’ on the oceans surface. Can be very beautiful, but can also be deadly when seafood gathered from an algae site is consumed.” — M. Lowe, Earth Matters
“Looking at the gas cloud produced after an eruption using thermal imagery probably underwater hence the blue at top of picture. Recent off Japanese coast.” — Duane Elliott, Facebook.
“Looks similar to nickel tailings in Sudbury, Ontario, much like the images shot by Edward Burtynsky. Improper chemical waste is an on-going environmental issue, which definitely needs more exposure.” — Brittney Hopson, Facebook.
“Enhanced satellite imagery of a desert area, showing buried aquifer formations which are potential water supplies, GPR perhaps.” — John Munsey, Facebook.
“To me it looks like it is hot lava with the gases swirling with smoke…Iceland…or Hawaii? — Alison Renee Heller, Facebook.
Thanks to all of you for puzzling away with us in 2013. We had a lot of fun looking at satellite imagery, and we hope you did as well. (Missed one of our 2013 puzzlers? We’ve tagged them here.) Looking forward, the puzzler will be back and even more puzzling in 2014. We’ll see you then.