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Earth Matters

October Puzzler

October 28th, 2013 by Adam Voiland


Each month, Earth Observatory offers up a puzzling satellite image here on Earth Matters. The October 2013 puzzler is above. Your challenge is to use the comments section to tell us what part of the world we are 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. (Try to keep it shorter than 300 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 spectral bands were used to create it, or what is compelling about some obscure speck in the far corner of an image. If you think something is interesting or noteworthy, 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 puzzler image appears on this 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 the 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.

Releasing Comments. Savvy readers have solved a number of earlier puzzlers after only a few minutes or hours. To give more people a chance to play, we’re going to wait between 24-48 hours before posting the answers we’ve received in the comment thread this time.


47 Responses to “October Puzzler”

  1. Jaimen W says:

    Northern Chile, Región de Arica y Parinacota, along the Rio Lluta. The road intersection is route 11 and A-15.

  2. Phil Echelman says:

    Looks to be the Rio Lluta Valley just south of the Peru/Chile border and about ~25mi east of Arica.

  3. Paulo Fank says:

    Atacama Desert

  4. Billy Tate says:

    Hard to tell, but this looks like a river valley in Afghanistan. Fertile fields are immediately adjacent to the river, as is common in the country. If I had to guess, I would say this is on the upper Helmand River, possibly in the Oruzgan or Ghazni provinces.

  5. Javier Canete says:

    The image was taken over Rio Yuta, Arica and Parinacota district, Northern Chile.
    Yuta River is quite famous along Chile due to its unique-fertile valley’s land. Althought its stream runs throughout the drieast desert on earth, its soil mineralogy, and water provenance (highland), permit to local communities developing an intensive agriculture mostly made by olive’s trees, some tropical fruits, and daily vegetables.

  6. David Stanton says:


  7. Rachel Sussman says:

    It looks like an agriculture belt along the Rio Lluta in the Atacama Desert – Northern Chile, inland from Arica inland toward Putre.

  8. marlon says:

    a foto foi tirada no mexico

  9. Joseph Rebstock says:

    Just a guess, but I think its flood plains along the Nile in Egypt.

    • Mecit says:

      Nil, değil. Nil nehrinin olduğu yerler yeşil alanlardır.- The Nile is not. In the green areas of the Nile.

  10. Kassoussi Nabil says:

    hello , greetings to all the team working there firstly I am so happy just by the fact an writing to someone there in Naza ,lol and I do have a serious feeling that this pic must be token in Southern Egypt

  11. Jerome says:

    I just thought that it shows a great river running through a desert. Nothing else but Nile River flowing across the Sahara Desert.

  12. Dalva Loyola says:

    OH My God!
    It’s a beautiful picture and place and I hope I’l be there some day. I think this place is on the Arizona state. Maybe in or next Sedona. Right?

  13. Stephen says:

    So extremely arid… and the sun angle (assuming the orientation is top-north) means it’s in the southern hemisphere. Those two things along with the color and the steepness of the terrain strongly suggest the Atacama Desert… just need to figure out which river.

  14. Benjamin Ray says:

    This image leads to the thought of some sort of an underground water system. The nature of the curvature of this valley suggests that this is some sort of underground river. The white deposits inside the valley indicate that there must have been a river running above-ground as well, in order to deposit this material (snow from upstream?). The current theory theory that I have (High-school freshman, so it probably is stupid/scientifically invalid (sorry for the personal pronoun)) is that a river ran trough this region, bringing loose snow from the sides of the valley in which it runs downstream, creating the line of white substance shown. What may lead to the formation of this valley may be a natural hot-water spring-turned river – that runs underground in order to provide fertile soil/water and heat to the what-looks-like farmland on the surface. Very intriguing.

  15. Allan G says:

    Somewhere on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang Province, China.

  16. Alexandre says:

    I would say it’s somewhere in the Orange River, Northern Cape, South Africa (Namibia). It’s a very interesting picture, it shows that humans are able to adapt, live and stay pretty much everywhere. Who would have thought it can be possible to live in the bottom of a canyon ? Or in space ?
    It also show our huge necessity of water, where there is water there is life (so beside the river) but not elsewhere without water (on the side of the canyon). It justify why it’s important for us to keep searching for water in order to find the remnant of life, even on other planet.

  17. Stephen says:

    -18.4002, -69.9767
    found it 🙂

  18. Gamercow says:

    Somewhere near Palm Springs?

  19. layer8 says:

    Indus River, Ladakh, India

  20. Alan W says:!data=!1m4!1m3!1d29222!2d-69.9747633!3d-18.4023592!2m1!1e3&fid=7

    This is the Rio Lluta valley in northern Chile, east of the city of Arica. The light-colored terrain looks like snow but is actually rhyolite tuff and other sediments. As the photo shows, the river valley provides important farmland. The switchbacked road seen entering the river valley from the bottom of the picture (south) is Route 11, which transverses Chile from near the coast to the Bolivian border.

  21. Leonie Dreschler-Fischer says:

    A great picture – wherever it may be. I just love the face of the black bear in the rocks overlooking the valley in the left part of the image.

    The valley reminds me of the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra-Valley in Tibet, or one of the valleys in the coastal desert in North Chile.

  22. David Escarguel says:

    Rio Lluta, few miles east from Arica, Chile 🙂!data=!1m4!1m3!1d25321!2d-69.9752838!3d-18.4039675!2m1!1e3&fid=7

    A river flowing through really dry environment. Stunning picture!

  23. Patrick Adamkiewicz says:

    Valle de Llutas near Molinos, Chile

  24. Goncalo Mercier says:


    I believe that this picture is from the Colca Canyon in Peru.

    The Colca Canyon is thought to be the deepest canyon in the world with one kilometre deep. It has the Mismi Nevado peak that is considered to be the official birthplace of the Amazon River.

    Hope you enjoy the info!

  25. Krishnan Vaidyanathan says:

    This jaw-dropping image looks like a space view of Las Vegas, Nevada . What’s so striking about this are the landslides that seem to fall off into the river causing the river to look like water gushing out of a damn . Looks like some “white-river” 🙂

  26. David Escarguel says:

    I forgot to point out that in fact the river itself is dry! Apparently it really flows during winter 😉

  27. Dan says:

    Looks to be somewhere along the The Nile River. Thats about all I can tell haha

  28. Shirou Zhiwu says:

    This look much like the upper Nile River.

  29. Shweta Sharma says:

    The interesting part is human presence (farmlands) in this area which almost looks inhabitable because of the absence of vegetation. I have no idea where it is but my wild guess would be hind-kush mountains.

  30. Patrick Adamkiewicz says:

    Satellite imagery of the Valle de Lluta (Molinos, Chile) provided by CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) Spot 5 satellite. The valley is known for its alfalfa, with plots visible in the satellite image, and for its petroglyphs which date back to 100 A.D.

  31. sue kilpatrick says:

    Yangtze River in China, before the Xilaou Dam

  32. Virginia says:

    The Nile River

  33. ariel garcia says:

    The Himalayas.

  34. Brian Best says:

    That terrain looks so smooth so I’m guessing that it might be volcanic ash. Maybe somewhere along the Columbia River after the Mount Saint Helens eruption.

  35. Peyman PrZh says:

    It was a river and there should be enough water under the ground to let the grasses grow up. Either a water resource or river’s water left over.

  36. Ramaprasad says:

    Himalayas -Ladakh region – interesting due to green fields at river bed side in the middle of snow capped mountains.

  37. Juan Pablo Joui says:

    La imagen corresponde al valle del Lluta, Norte de Chile. Este valle y gran parte de los valles de Chile y Peru se caracterizan por ser verdaderos oasis en pleno desierto. La agricultura, y la ganaderia estan presentes a lo largo del valle debido a la fertilidad de su tierra, lo que constituye un gran atractivo turístico. En la imagen se observan los campos cultivados en la rivera del rio y el camino 11CH (cuesta peligrosa), (linea oscura en zig-zag en la parte inferior de la foto). En el valle de Lluta, tambien, se encuentran grandes geoglifos que se pueden ver desde el aire, desde un avion o desde el espacio incluso desde Google mapas. Hacia el norte del valle se encuentra, ademas, las lineas del ferrocarril andino y mas al norte la frontera entre Chile y Peru.

  38. geof giles says:

    The border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan in the Wakkan Corridor region, probably full of land mines.

  39. Yulia says:

    Elqui Valley, Chile ?

  40. john tristine says:

    ARAK afghanistan

  41. David Hallowell says:

    Hoth, summertime

  42. Ashley Berens says:

    It looks like the chili vale de Lluta but then again it has a lot of similarities to the terrain around a volcano, like Krakatoa

  43. Niraj Dave says:

    This place is somewhere in Jammu and Kashmir in India

  44. ritaco says:

    Me encantan estas imágenes!!! Muestran lo versátil que es el hombre!!!!