Earth Matters

January Puzzler

January 21st, 2013 by Adam Voiland

Every month, NASA Earth Observatory will offer up a puzzling satellite image here on Earth Matters. The eighth 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 why the scene is interesting.

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!

33 Responses to “January Puzzler”

  1. Ron Schott says:

    Royal Gardens subdivision, Hawai’i, pre-inundation by lava flows of the Pu’u O’o eruptive sequence (1983-present).

  2. Peter says:

    town for extreme military exercises?

  3. Weldon W Williams says:

    It’s a black & white photo of the Royal Gardens subdivision on the island of Hawaii. It has been swallowed up by the continuing eruption of Kileaua Volcano on the southern end of the island. Last time I perused the images (usually daily), one of the photos posted showed the last house that has not been consumed by lava flows.

  4. António says:

    Wind farm in west China.

  5. B. Jardine says:

    The Nazca Lines, Peru.

  6. Nirav Desai says:

    The pattern looks man-made because of the rectangular geometry. My first guess was farms but there is no river or lake nearby so I guess that’s not the answer. Second guess would be an area set for a temporary human settlement that is now not being used. Meaning, a human inhabitation in this place was present some time ago, but they have moved since. Most likely, it was a laboratory of some kind to study the local geography or plant and animal life like the base in Antarctica. There is no one living there right now as the picture indicates that there is no sign of a human activity. I can make out the contours of some kind very vaguely, which would indicate this is mountainous terrain. A research base in a mountainous terrain which is now not being used would happen only in the case of a volcano. This is how far my reason can take me. My General Knowledge is not that good to pinpoint an exact location.

  7. Nirav Desai says:

    So the comment on Hawaii is correct. I found this on the internet when I searched for that place:

  8. Nirav Desai says:

    I was thinking this could be an underground nuclear research site the way they have it in Iran as that would fit this description.

  9. glenn parent says:

    there be a lot of pooh in that sewage treatment site.

  10. Tom Lynn says:

    Footing for a dam.

  11. Jonathan says:

    It would be nice if the correct location was not posted so quickly to give some of us a chance to investigate.

  12. Chris says:


  13. Burley says:

    This image was taken in the distant future said to be in the 32nd century. It shows an ongoing excavation of an ancient human irrigation structure that was buried under igneous rock for over a thousand years. The exceptional quality of the metals used for the irrigation pipes is a material close to carbon nano-fiber; which would date this structure to the early 21st century. Sites like this one are rare since the humans are said to have gone extinct around this time, known as the Anthropocene epoch, or “The Age of Man.”

  14. Melissa says:

    Plymouth, Montserrat; all but evacuated now, shows lava flows through a ghost town

  15. Mandana says:

    the reflection of the Royal Gardens’ subdivision on the island of Hawai, on Venus ?? just like the same reflection of our planet earth was on the moon, a long time ago???

  16. Crews Giles says:

    I had made it as far as streets and alleys of some 20th Century (because of the alleys) ghost-town when I hit the comments button. I had already ruled out Chernobyl because the structures would still be standing, was about to look up the coal town which was evacuated because of a fire in the mine which still burns, and then, Drat! First guess out of the box already had the answer.

    Nice job Ron!

    For the record, if I recognize one of the puzzlers on first glance, I’m going to post it as fast as I can, too.

    I mean, who could pass on all the award money, right?

  17. Dashboard Vogon says:

    China. Layout for a theoretical new town/city.

  18. Sunshine West says:

    The image looks to be of the streets of Los Angeles.

  19. Musa Swesi says:

    Its in Afghanistan they making road on the mounting

  20. Peter Godfrey says:

    I think its the animal shapes seen on the ground from space in the Nazca Desert of Peru

  21. Darragh Corvan says:

    The lines are very straight which would show mans involvement. I think there is a glowing object in the bottom right quarter of the image. This may be a thermal image thus, taken at night. The glowing object may be a vehicle of some type. I believe that it is a satellite image of land being mined, possibly for limestone. The lighter outcrops on the green background would suggest this.

  22. Felim Doyle says:

    It’s the foundations for the Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia, Jefferson Davis Hwy./VA 110 at I-395, Virginia (38.87099°N 77.05596°W or thereabouts).

    I imagine the image was acquired circa late 1941 or early 1942.

    It’s interesting because, in addition to the concentric rings designated as “A” through “E” which are visible from the surface today, you can also see rings “F” and “G” of the basement.

    Of course, as it pre-dates the launch of any satellite, the photo cannot have been taken from space (or can it)!

  23. Maizy says:


  24. Stacia says:

    New Orleans after hurricane Katrina

  25. elvira says:

    To me it seems that it is a airport in a dezert, maybe in africa.
    And teh picture has been taken by a satelite.

  26. Mohamed.A. Farahani says:

    According to the image; It seems like it is a Farm. A Maize Farm somewhere in United States and I think that area can be somewhere in: Wisconsin.

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  28. Jon Derek says:

    Based on what I’ve read recently, my bet is an underground nuclear research site.