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Earth Matters

October Puzzler

October 30th, 2017 by Kathryn Hansen

Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The October 2017 puzzler is above. Your challenge is to use the comments section to tell us what 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 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 or a trip to Mars, 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. After we post the answer, we will acknowledge the person who was first to correctly ID the image at the bottom of this blog post. We may also recognize certain readers 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!

13 Responses to “October Puzzler”

  1. Mark D says:

    I think these are the Ortaaral and Ayakaral islands in the southern tip of Lake Balkhash, Kazakhstan.

    The water around the island looks shallow and sediment-filled, judging by the cloudiness. This would tally with a seasonal filling of the lake (by spring snowmelt?). The islands look like they have white salt deposits on them (evaporated pools), which could be show the image was taken at the end of/during a drought or dry-season. The yellow/orange lake on the NE tip of the larger island is interesting – maybe copepods feeding on algae in the pools?

  2. Sarah K. says:

    Thanks for sharing

  3. James Varghese says:

    We are looking at a part of Landsat 8 satellite image that was acquired most probably on 9th Oct. 2017 before noon local time over the western section of Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan. I would argue that the satellite image would have looked completely different if it were acquired in winter when the lake is usually frozen. This image focuses on two sparsely vegetated islands (Ostrov in Russian and Ilha in Portuguese) of Ortaaral (larger) and Ayakaral (smaller) situated at the south-western end of the lake. The western section of the lake is dominantly fed by the Ili river that has glacial origins, supplying the lake fresh waters compared to the relatively saline eastern part of the lake. What I found interesting about the satellite image is that, it artistically shows the mixing of, relatively speaking, clear aquamarine waters with lighter shades of sediment laden turquoise waters. A conspicuous sediment swirl is visible in between the two islands. As one travels along the eastern direction (not pictured here) of the 600 km lake, dark turquoise colored saline waters are distinguishable from the light colored sediment rich western part. The white and yellow colored patches over the islands are probably precipitated minerals and salts rich in calcium carbonate (limestone?).

    Human presence and activities surrounding the lake have also played a significant role in shaping it. According to UNDP Kazakhstan, ‘there are serious concerns about the ecology of the lake, especially in view of repeating the environmental disaster at the Aral Sea’.

  4. Tony says:

    These are two islands in Lake Balkhash, Kazakhstan. My best guess on the yellow spot is that it is sediment from a dried pond on that island.

    Coordinates: 45°23’03.3″N 73°52’39.8″E

    • Tony says:

      I work for Discovery Science Foundation in Orange County, California.

      We operate three children’s science centers (Discovery Cube Orange County, Discovery Cube Los Angeles and Discovery Cube’s Ocean Quest. We are fortunate to have two Science on a Sphere displays. Thanks NOAA!

  5. IVAN KORDAČ says:

    Lake Balkash Provincie Jambal, nearest city Kuigan on Ili River
    yellow color of small lake on the insel is beatiful, maybe sulfur or microb activity

    Have a nice day by visit people less places.

  6. Elaine O'Leary says:

    These are 2 small islands in Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan. The lake has an unusual feature in that one half of the lake is freshwater and the other half is saltwater. These islands were not visible 20 years ago. Experts think that the lake is becoming more shallow and saline, due to evaporation and overuse of the water for irrigation. As a result islands are now appearing due to the fall in water level. The lake is frozen from November to March so this shot was taken outside this period and sometime in the last 15 to 20 years.

  7. Eddie Choo says:

    These are islands in lake Balkash in Kazakhstan. The white flecks are probably salt or some other reflective, white mineral. The photographs were made recently and look like they were made in the optical wavelength.

  8. James Varghese says:

    The yellow color patch on the Ortaaral island could be indicative of minerals rich in copper sulfides with white colored salts surrounding it. Earlier, it may have been a pool of salt and mineral solution before evaporation caused the precipitates to form.

  9. Shashank says:

    It appears to be Lake Balkash in Kazakhstan. Interesting is that different colours of the area.
    There appears to be frozen lake in the above Island. Yellow color in that may indicate presence of natural chemicals and may be of dead planktons below .
    Uneven distribution of blue color may indicate frozen ice getting melted.

  10. Rahul says:

    Lake Balkhash islands of Ortaaral and its smaller neighbor in summer/after rains. The southwestern part of the lake is fresh water, unlike the eastern part, and the image depicts the flow of silt from the Ili river against the blue settled freshwater.

    The yellow lake is because of a particular type of algae.

  11. Joihn Brennan says:

    They are mountain peaks in Greenland above the glaciers. The blue swirls are meltwater. The white spots are unmelted snow.