Earth Matters

August Puzzler

August 26th, 2014 by Mike Carlowicz


Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The August 2014 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, what the image shows, 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 200 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, 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 about the geological, meteorological, or human processes that have played a role in molding the landscape. Please include your preferred name or alias with your comment. If you work for or attend 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 or work in geospatial imaging, please sit on your hands for at least a  day to give others a chance to play.

Releasing Comments. Savvy readers have solved some of our puzzlers after only a few minutes or hours. To give more people a chance to play, we may wait between 24-48 hours before posting the answers we receive in the comment thread.


UPDATE (September 4) – The answer to this puzzler was the Image of the Day on August 31. We also posted a blog entry about the challenges in solving this puzzler.

44 Responses to “August Puzzler”

  1. Chris Mentrek says:

    My guess: an astronaut’s photo of the Caspian Sea region at night, including a lightning storm over Central Asia.

    The dark space at the bottom-center of the image reminds me of the shape of the North shore of the Caspian Sea. If I’m right, the string of lights across the image could be from the Volgograd, Astrakhan, and Atyrau urban areas.

    There are three colors of lights in the image: yellow-green (the most widespread), yellow-orange (which occur in isolated “pinpoints”), and blue (the spot in the upper-right).

    My guess is that the yellow-green lights are electric lights from cities. The yellow-orange lights seem to be concentrated around the water, which makes me guess that they come from oil and gas wells. The spot of blue light could be from lightning; my guess is that it would be somewhere over Kazakhstan.

  2. msieurico says:

    Mediterranean Sea. We can see clearly Italy in the center

  3. Tansy Feltis says:

    Iceland? The eruption of the inpronouncable volcano?

  4. bboucek says:

    This image is looking at the eastern coast of Japan at night. Nagoya is the big bright spot with Ise Bay in the bottom center of the image. The brightest spot in the bay is Chubu international airport. The comment above about the blue spot in the top of the image is probably correct – a lightning storm at night.

  5. jackelyne says:

    I say it’s Central America. Nicaragua atop, Costa Rica in the middle and Panama at the bottom. As for the “blue light” in the far top. I think it’s a tropical storm of the Caribbean Sea. And that big cluster in the middle of what I think is Costa Rica, could possibly be volcano Arenal erupting. It’s always active.

  6. Heath says:

    Looks like it could be Australia, and some of Southeast Asia. As for the rest of the info wanted i am not educated in the subject matter. So lets just say Obama did it, or aliens.

  7. James Titmas says:

    This is Aichi – Nagoya harbor – Japan from the east looking West. Thunderstorm in background, bay and cities partly obscrued by rain clouds.

  8. Barbara says:

    The north coast of Russia with the glow of the Icelandic volcano at the top

  9. Yumiko Stettler says:

    Chita Peninsula48S

  10. Zeb Pawledge says:

    I think it is Beijing in the middle of the photo. No cloud cover but lots of pollution.

  11. Usha Murugesan says:

    i guess its india and srilanka coastal!

  12. Ed Streuli says:

    That is one of the Antarctic bases in the upper right and South Africa.

  13. Fritz G says:

    I’m guess Atyrau, Kazakhstan, with lightning to the north.

    • Chris Mentrek says:

      Hi, Fritz!
      How did you arrive at your guess? Do you also think that the dark shape in the center of the image is the Caspian Sea?

  14. Ana says:

    Europe and part of the Mediterranean Sea

  15. Russell Andrews says:

    The mother ship above Europe

  16. M says:

    bioluminescent sea creatures

    somewhere in the sea

  17. Kosaku Kuno says:

    I think this is central of Japan. Nagoya city, Chita Peninsula, Atsumi Pneninsula, Ise Bay and so on.

  18. chemica says:

    Island with volcanic smoke ..

  19. JYO SANO says:

    Here has been taken from Suruga Bay to Osaka around Nagoya in central Japan.

  20. Mary Anne Jankowiak says:

    Looking over Alaska

  21. BLANKY FLORES says:


  22. Tilmann says:

    Blue Spot in Upper Part of picture ist reflection of Moon light.
    Experience with that you give Some Information on schale of picture.
    I don’t habe, therefore nö ideal.

  23. ann mullen says:

    I think it’s around the Persian Gulf, in the Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates region.

  24. Smith says:

    At first I would say it’s Mediterranean sea but not a correct shape of The Balkans, I think it’s Caspian Sea, Russian cities, the big light – Volgograd maybe.

  25. Stephanie Post says:

    Its the night view of, starting from left to right… the coastline of Spain, then I can see the boot of Italy. The brightest light almost near the center of the photograph would be the Munich city lights, then follow along the bottom of the photograph to see the lights of Greece and I believe Bulgaria… the furthest light on the right either Moscow or Lithuania? The bright blue light at the top of the photograph I believe would be the eruption of Icelands Bardarbunga Volcano that occured within the last 24 hours. This image was captured by possibly using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). Whew okay… thats my guess!

  26. Janet Watson says:

    The bright blue light is Aurora Borealus over Alaska and the rest of the image are the volcanic activity under the ocean around the Hawaian Island chain.

  27. Tanasescu Ana Monica says:

    City – yellow lights(houses),with(streets) at border line with sea/ocean. Dark part- without houses( may be desert/mountain,field). Blue light – secure aria( airport/military aria)

  28. Peter Curia says:

    Off the East coast of South America by Brazil. The blue light is from fishing vessels.

  29. Alisa says:

    I can see Thailnd clearly, also the bright light near Bangkok too.

  30. Ninabellina says:

    Cities around the great lakes at night

  31. Duclos randy says:

    This is ICELAND WITH THE BLUEISH TINGE BARGubanga ? ( spelling) volcanoe ,,only iceland ,,showing rejevic ? The capital about 200 SSW OF VOLCANO,,,

  32. preciousregina says:

    I think its the war in the middle east, the clouds being smoke rising. The close clusters of lights being the major cities and the blue spot? The moon? Pooled tears of angels? Flash from a camera?

  33. Melody Peters says:

    Malaysia island chain.

  34. vikram says:

    the blue ball of light above is the earth.probably a hubble image from some far from the solar system

  35. Debra says:

    What’s the answer????? I can’t find the answers!!!!!

  36. hoggen says:

    greese whit turky to the right, Lightning in notrh

  37. ISABELLA says:


  38. Deepak Chaudhary says:

    This is looks like our galaxy ….

  39. Cristian Brown says:

    My guess is truly that the object in the picer in the coner was possibly a star endng its life in a nova what makes me say this is the nebula shown in in the bottom left hand corner