May Puzzler

May 24th, 2016 by Adam Voiland


Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The May 2016 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 a blog post, 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.

Good luck!

Update: The answer is posted here.

37 Responses to “May Puzzler”

  1. Aarnav says:

    They seem like water tanks connected via pipes to me!

  2. Nancyeditor8 says:

    they look like big farm irrigation machines- sorry i don’t know the correct name.

  3. Berthoumieu says:

    Line of irrigation for bringing water to the fields

  4. Motahar Qaadri says:

    Wind turbines

  5. Ashray Umesh says:

    The diagonal lines are irrigation pipelines

  6. Etienne Meyer says:

    Satellite dishes

  7. Gavin McMorrow says:

    Wind Turbines

  8. Michael Soloman says:

    A radio telescope array / or windmill farm.

  9. Smeebert says:

    Ski Lifts

  10. Ruth Hayward says:

    Ancient stone monoliths connected by paths. Perhaps France.

  11. Dan Mahr says:

    As others have commented, these are wind turbines, probably viewed from Landsat 8 OLI. The shadows of some turbines are visible from the diagonal roads connecting them. Based on the square-shaped parcels of land, I assumed that this was in the US. The unusual angle at which the two orthogonal road grids meet suggests that this is not in a PLSS state where the grids always follow cardinal directions. Thus, I started looking in Texas, which has very irregular grids. In particular, I searched the TIGER streets file for places where two orthogonal grids meet each other at a ~15 degree angle.

    I found the exact location: 32.735887,-100.808286 just east of Snyder, TX. These turbines are apparently part of the Snyder Wind Project, and were the tallest in the US (345 feet high) when they were installed in 2007.

    • Francisco Escamilla-Vera says:

      Dan Mahr is right. Wind turbines form a NW-SE pattern which is accord with the prevailing winds (from the southwest). Cultivated fields give an idea of contour interval, which shows an almost flat land.

  12. Linas says:

    There is a mirror reflection of the waves;

  13. Linas says:

    maybe I say it was just a reflection of Aquarius, or activity solar storm, solar flash SETI telescope or palidova.

  14. susan w says:

    ,mining, terrace like steps

  15. Vanessa says:

    Wind turbines?

  16. Dallas says:

    Appears to be artificial water ducting to higher elevations, with sizeable pump houses delivering water to a vineyard or other agricultural endeavour. The majority of the contours represent elevation change and natural underground water flows nourishing vegetative growth along those lines. Sections and quarter-section survey divisions are evidenced by both biomass and a systematic road network, as are smaller land parcels to the right. I would guess that the curvy top middle section appears to be a campground or two sparsely populated, so coupled with what appears to be early growth, I suspect that this image would have been taken in the northern hemisphere (east of the Rockies) in April or early May.

    I’m probably batting 3/10 if I’m lucky… but I gave it a go. :c)

  17. Carol says:

    Oil derricks.

  18. Chuck says:

    Wind turbines

  19. J.Fleta says:

    I think that is a terrain occupied by explotaiton of fracking derricks in a tabular landscape.

  20. Virender Kumar says:

    it’s Look like a wind air flow on the earth

  21. Jana Blaháková says:

    Gas drilling

  22. Guillermo Silva says:

    It is an irrigation system for agriculture in hills that have deforestation. And maybe it is somewhere in China.

  23. James Varghese says:

    Image Location: Snyder, Scurry County, Texas, United States
    Coordinates: 32°43’19.84″N, 100°49’8.10″W
    Image Caption: Wind Farm among Cotton Fields in Western Texas
    Image Description: The image is oriented North up. Subset of Landsat 8 Natural Color Satellite Image. Spectral Band Combinations used – 4,3,2 as Red, Green and Blue respectively. The image was captured with Operational Land Imager (OLI) Sensor. Large square shaped land plots can be easily identified in this satellite image. This green and brown landscape is dotted with white coloured wind turbines that are diagonally arranged. The grey-brown coloured curved contour like patterns are actually skip-row planting patterns characteristic of cotton farming widely practiced in Texas and other states. This image was probably taken after cotton harvest. Wind turbines are part of Camp Springs Wind Farm, developed, operated and owned by Invenergy. These wind turbines were manufactured by GE Energy. Correctional Institutions Divisions’ Prison named Price Daniel Unit can be seen as a white rectangular block complex approximately towards the south of the image. The green colour could indicate other kinds of crops or grass. Skip-row planting patterns visible from space can be confused with terraces on hill slopes.

  24. Andy says:

    Fracking operations in Texas.

  25. Woody says:

    Wind turbines. I also thought Texas panhandle area but terraced slopes would be unusual there though not improbable. Terracing suggests rice cultivation which is also not indicative of Texas panhandle. I am thinking Australia where rainfall and topography might be conducive to rice, wind farms.

    • Francisco Escamilla-Vera says:

      It is not terracing, but contour plowing, a kind of plowing that follows lines of the same altitude.

  26. James Varghese says:

    Since I had won the April Puzzler last month, I had to wait for a day before I posted the answer for the May Puzzler, so that others have a chance to play. This is how I figured it out. It was clear that these white dots were wind turbines and I also knew that it may not be located in Asia as they may not have such regular land parcel shapes. So I started to look at all the wind farm locations in the US here After searching for each one, I was still not sure of the exact location but I could see that the wind turbines were located somewhere in Texas while comparing the landscape in Google Earth. I became sure of the exact location when I visited the online USGS interactive Wind farm website and started to look for diagonally arranged wind farms in Texas. Bingo! Here it was!

  27. Max Cleveland says:

    Too easy… Wind farm… Texas. Township and range lines and terrain make location simple.

  28. Sumanta Sanyal says:

    They seem like mud eddies in Lake Erie where big rivers enter the lake. This is during the spring runoff. The instrument used is possibly MODIS or some more powerful one.


  29. Andreas says:

    As people above mentioned, it is somewhere in Texas and there are some windmills. What I think is more interesting are the regular forms that look like contour lines. They are actually plant belts protecting the soil from erosion by wind or water. Some of them may be really ancient, because they cross the actual field borders. Probably this was too obvious for you guys, but for me its exciting because we don’t see these structures where I’m from. Its taken in springtime, before the crop was growing in most of the fields. The image could have been produced by Sentinel-2, due to the high resolution.

  30. Suzi Hurlburt says:

    wind turbines over contour farming, the parcel shapes look like US plains states.
    road and parcel angles seem to match area east of Snyder, Texas.

  31. Leonel Concha Aillon says:

    Power House, Texas EEUU

  32. Leonel Concha Aillon says:

    Es un parque Eólico en el estado de Texas, conocido como Power House