Earth Matters

November Puzzler

November 12th, 2012 by Adam Voiland

Every month, NASA Earth Observatory will offer up a puzzling satellite image here on Earth Matters. The sixth puzzler is above. Your challenge is to use the comments section below to tell us what part of the world we’re looking at, when the image was acquired, and what’s happening in the scene.

How to answer. Your answer can be a few words or several paragraphs. (Just try to keep it shorter than 300-400 words). You might simply tell us what part of the world an image shows. Or you can dig deeper and explain what satellite and instrument produced the image, what bands were used to create it, and what’s interesting about the geologic history of some obscure speck of color in the far corner of an image. If you think something is interesting or noteworthy about a scene, tell us about it.

The prize. We can’t offer prize money for being the first to respond or for digging up the most interesting kernels of information. But, we can promise you credit and glory (well, maybe just credit). Roughly one week after a “mystery image” appears on the blog, we will post an annotated and captioned version as our Image of the Day. In the credits, we’ll acknowledge the person who was first to correctly ID an image. We’ll also recognize people who offer the most interesting tidbits of information. Please include your preferred name or alias with your comment. If you work for an institution that you want us to recognize, please mention that as well.

Recent winners. If you’ve won the puzzler in the last few months, please sit on your hands for at least a few days to give others a chance to play.

You can read more about the origins of the satellite puzzler here. Good luck!

69 Responses to “November Puzzler”

  1. James Bruner says:

    This is fires in idaho and a temperature inversion is pushing smoke down the river valleys

    • Julie says:

      I agree with James. I was within 20 miles of the 3 fires in the summer in Idaho. I can see bodies of water in this picture. Possibly Redfish Lake? It burned all around us, but was clear as could be at the lake. I have many close-up pictures.

      The valleys ( 90 miles away) were much smokier!

  2. Alexandre Mathieu says:

    Agree with James Bruner. White areas correspond to smoke located in major valleys.
    Earth’s Observatory highlights often wilfires occurring worldwide but i only found similar smoke-based shapes in the archive (section “natural hazards” > “fires”) for wildfires in Idaho :

    • JR says:

      I believe it is rime ice that formed on the trees after fog settled into the valleys. The fog has since dissipated, but the rime remains.

      • Alexandre Mathieu says:

        You may be right too. Freezing fog is a valuable explanation as in case of wildfire, dominant winds blow smoke toward a unique global direction : this is viewable through the links i gave above, but clearly not on this puzzler.
        Besides, in case of fires, intense white color due to accumulation of smoke in valleys is gradually fading to light grey over surroundings (due to winds) unlike to this puzzler where distinction between white valleys and surroundings is very clear.

        Freezing fog is thus very likely, suggesting that the image have been acquired in early or late winter. In case of middle winter, some snow would covers mountains and many lakes in very dark color on the image (i.e free of ice) would be freezed.

  3. Doug Sullivan says:

    I Believe it’s in the Rockies were it shows a flood and the water still in motion when it froze.

  4. scott reiter says:

    I don’t think it’s smoke since you can clearly see the rivers/streams. Perhaps just valley fog?

  5. david says:

    higher elevations on mountain tops shows the snows in late fall could be afganistan

  6. Kelsey Sharp says:

    It’s a system of clouds moving over some sort of mountain range (Andies or Rockies) and the clouds moving in the pattern of the mountains makes it look like a human heart.

  7. Patrick says:

    This is yesturday in colorado. The pot smokers gathered around in the forest and began smoking legally. They were so happy they made a heart

  8. Stuart Grice says:

    It could be South America. The White patches are clouds/fog created by trees in the valleys. It is probably early in the day and the sunlight has started the trees breathing. The Valleys will have a different air pressure to the air above and as such the fog can’t dissipate as usual.

  9. David P. says:

    Looks like low laying clouds/fog that’s flowing through the valleys between mountains.

  10. baris tolga says:

    valley or upslope fog, maybe both of them.

  11. Jim says:

    I believe its moisture from the Pacific moving through the valleys. I want to say its a desert since the West sides of the mountains are more bare than the others. Atacama Desert maybe? I want to say somewhere on the West coast of Chile.

  12. John Ervin says:

    I was going to guess the Andes mountains in South America, and steam coming off of water in valleys.

  13. Genie Perkins says:

    I think this is volcanic steam…over hot lava. Not snow. Not fog. Probably one of the Hawaiian islands. Land is mostly barren. I see some patches of growth.

  14. EAT says:

    Just a quick question. Is the north/south orientation always top/bottom in this photos?

  15. Doug says:

    I believe this is coastal fog moving into the valley in the central California area.

  16. Andrew Mades says:

    I think that this might be glaciers. the South America theory doesn’t hold up i dont think because there should be fog all over the photo if it is indeed being released from the trees. There are also several snow caps along the mountains indicating that it is at least somewhat chilly in the area.

  17. Yusuf Güngör says:

    Just snow… This is somewhere near the pole… So The sun can not reach deeps of the Mountains… Only Top sides can be heated by Sun rays…

  18. Raymond. Brown says:

    It’s a small deer carrying a large heart on it’s back. One might say a White Hart carrying a White Heart.

  19. janine says:

    beautiful picture… all the pictures of this beautiful and fragile world are so wonderful (love these Hubble pictures, too)… in childhood i wanted to see this world from above, to see other planets, stars, these colourful clouds and…

    this picture could have a “heart”… the heart of our world, reminding us about what we are doing to her (pollution, over exploit, nuclear waste, war,…)

  20. Adam says:

    Im going with fires again but not in Idaho, i’m going with Washington State/Wenatchee area/

  21. Ryan Wikane says:

    Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, CO end of June-July 2012

  22. Nick rossellonick says:

    It’s definitely the boogeyman from the nightmare before Christmas, the left side with his mouth open.

  23. chris says:

    Looks like Wyoming near Teton area outside of jackson. Fog /tempature inversion in the valleys. Looks like picture was taken in late morning because of shadows. Peaks are above tree line so they havve to be up there. Yup that is it same mtn lake in area,Teton+Range&gl=us&t=p&sa=X&ei=DICiULrEK5LE0AHMgoDQCA&ved=0CHwQtgM

    • chris says:

      I hope that is it, I hunted that area for elk back in early 90’s with my father and looks the same. Beautiful area .

  24. Melanie says:

    Snow. Where? Not sure. Looks like a puffin.

  25. Felipe Cervantes says:

    It is the first snow over New york area of this november 2012

  26. Kevin Cole says:

    I think they are dense clouds just travelling around a mountain range. I’m just gonna completely guess and say that they were taken at the Cascades during early winter??

  27. Lisa Davis says:

    Radar belt around Iran, complete with enircling of US troops with the Dimona radar facility in green.

  28. Eve says:

    No question it’s a glacier, probably North American, likely Alaska or western Canada.

  29. Derek says:

    It’s a vapor cloud in the Andes Moutains from the sun rays which signals winter is here.

  30. John says:

    This is the northern Brazil highlands. Low clouds are sweeping through the valleys. The bright speck in the upper left is vegetation where a small marsh is. Near the Demini River is.

  31. Antti Muhonen says:

    I think that this might be glaciers in the Rockies.

  32. Tyson Shelby says:

    I believe that this an oncoming high pressure cold front coming in from the East pressing down on clouds in the Sierra-Nevada mountain range.

  33. Melissa S says:

    Snow covered mountain tops in the Andes or Rockies.

  34. Sankalp says:

    I also think that, it is a melting glacier of Sierra Nevada taken from the satellite.

  35. Terri Green says:

    Melting Himalayan Glacier. Ice atop the highest altitude of the steep green/gray terrain eroded by runoff streaming to the river below (blue), with a lime green & pink artifact embedded in the pic (upper left)

    • Terri Green says:

      I would like to revise my entry to suggest the green and pink artifact is a marker used to calculate the actual size in the image.

  36. St_armen says:

    Notice the bright green blobs in the upper left (W) side?

  37. William says:

    Mist in the valleys of the fjords in Norway

  38. Elisavet says:

    Rocky mountain region from NASA’s Terra satellite,by MISR instrument?

  39. Shaden says:

    Mountain with some snow 🙂

    • pedro luis says:

      hola gente de earth obserbatory.bueno yo veo una serpiente o un dragon.mis comentarios son algo mitolojicos pero talvez oumildemente noce puedan decir algo.recordemos las figuras que estan en el peru pueden ser mensajes ocultos de nuestro planeta.gracias.

  40. stewart mcpherson says:

    i agree with james mist in the valleys …

  41. Sara Ingerö says:

    A volcanic crater, volcanic gases emitting and condensing in early morning/high elevation chill. A volcano in the process of going from being dormant to being active?

  42. Syed Yasin Akram says:

    I think its a creation by us, that means Global Warming. This Photo is either North or South pole

  43. Jaishankar says:

    It is a mountain range where the white strips is a smoke/frozen river.

  44. Anya says:

    Looks like low clouds in the valleys of the Himalayas.

  45. Dave McKay says:

    45.234214°, -114.532997°

  46. yerobbo says:

    A line for Wall Mart black Friday sale perhaps – what you see is the hot steaming breath of anticipation

  47. Choctaw says:

    Looks like an x-ray of my heart and lungs just before I quit smoking after 39 years.

  48. Abhijit says:

    seems more like mountain range covered with snow. sparsely though.. probably the Himalayan range.

  49. jms says:

    Definitely not snow or rime/frozen fog. Not enough snow cover in the higher mountains, and the snow on all but the highest peak (bottom left) appears dirty and old. The valley cover is far to “thick” to be resultant from frozen fog. Rime would have been deposited during a storm cycle, which wouldn’t have left the mountaintops clear.

    It’s far to white to be smoke from a fire, though the spot in the upper left could be a thermally mapped hot spot. I’d say they are definitely clouds due to the “puffiness” particularly mid canyon. There clearly is no wind, so an inversion, or simply low, trapped cloud bank is my best explanation.

    Where? Very late season temperate zone mountain range, or tropical range. Terrain appears too barren to be located continentally windward slope of a costal or near inland mountain range such as the Cascades.

    The apparent extensiveness of the range makes me think Asia. But it could certainly be an isolated spot anywhere from the Canadian Rockies, through the Andes. Gotta fire up that Google Earth pattern match.

  50. Michael Osborn says:

    I think its a layer of limestone or carbonate rock that has been weathered and dissected. Steep slopes show rock slides and scars appear white. The lakes fit in with limestone being dissolved. Streams appear to be draining from right to left – a bit odd that they are making a circular draining pattern but maybe the upper stream captured the lower stream on the far right. The picture was taken in late morning in the middle of spring. located 30-35 degress away form the equator. Maybe South America/Argentina region

  51. Mehdy Ashoury says:

    light reflected off the water surface.

  52. Brenda says:

    This looks like salt. The sea air has settled on top of this range and caused a salt bed. When you look at Okley,Ks., (salt beds), where you can find fossiles. Maybe???

  53. Abeer Al Subaie says:


  54. Sabareesh SS says:

    I think it may be South Pole Antartica Regions..

  55. i-max says:


    • i-max says:

      On the morning of March 29, 1987, the Thematic Mapper on the Landsat 5 satellite captured this scene of fog lingering in valley bottoms of Argentina’s Lake District.

  56. Lourdes says:

    I have never seen something like that, and I have not traveled a lot, then might I do not have idea where is the picture taken but, I can’t see water, I see a strange behavior for the snow, because has heart shape, and in the right hand in the top not forest and less mountains. I tink the place is somewhere in the Andes, Did I guess?