Earth Matters

January Puzzler

January 13th, 2021 by Kathryn Hansen

Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The January 2021 puzzler is above. Your challenge is to use the comments section to tell us what we are looking at, where it is, and why it is interesting.

How to answer. You can use a few words or several paragraphs. You might simply tell us the location, 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 feature. If you think something is interesting or noteworthy, tell us about it.

The prize. We cannot 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 first person to correctly identify the image at the bottom of this blog post. We also may recognize readers who offer the most interesting tidbits of information about the geological, meteorological, or human processes that have shaped the landscape. Please include your preferred name or alias with your comment. If you work for or attend an institution that you would like to recognize, please mention that as well.

Recent winners. If you’ve won the puzzler in the past few months, or if you work in geospatial imaging, please hold your answer for at least a day to give less experienced readers a chance.

Releasing Comments. Savvy readers have solved some puzzlers after a few minutes. To give more people a chance, we may wait 24 to 48 hours before posting comments. Good luck!

UPDATE on January 19 — This puzzler shows a soft-edged cloud hovering over a mountain range in Antarctica. Margaret Obrien was the first to specify the correct continent. The Image of the Day reveals that this is the Eisenhower Range of Antarctica’s Transantarctic Mountains near Terra Nova Bay. Holger Wille was the first to specify that the clouds are likely lenticular cloudsa cloud type that can form when fast moving wind is disturbed by a topographic barrier. 

38 Responses to “January Puzzler”

  1. Kate Fitzgerald says:

    These are snow covered mountains with the sun coming in on the left leaving a dark shadow on the right side of the mountains in the picture. The white “blob” is a cloud above. Some parts seem icy as well!

  2. Margaret OBrien says:


  3. samantha sherwood says:

    Looks like the ice age which would happen from beetlejuice explodin looks like a frozen asteroid getting close to earth sorta thing

  4. Steven Reynolds says:

    Washington state coast

  5. Kyleigh Gates-Haas says:

    It is the top of mount Everest. What I am looking at is a bubble of gas that has escaped the top of the mountain.This is interesting because it shows how the chemicals an the material in the mountain react to oxygen.

  6. Carol B says:

    It could be a cloud of noxious gas coming from the little pool underneath it or it a volcano ‘burping’ on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Eastern Russia.

  7. Carol B says:

    It could be a cloud of noxious gas coming from the little pool underneath it or it a volcano ‘burping’ on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Eastern Russia. GF

  8. Holger Wille says:

    A lenticular cloud over the headwaters of a glacier, presumably in Greenland. Showing how the streaming air flowing over a mountain top condenses a smooth looking cloud on an otherwise clear day.

  9. Ivan says:

    Pareidolia – profile of someone (shadow on the hills … )


    Mont Blanc (Alps masive)

  10. Zakaria says:

    It’s a Clothe unique
    Antarctica I think
    It’s interesting i think because the form and the density and to study world climate and weather

  11. Shatoya says:

    This is a picture of Larsen Ice Shelf it is located on the northeast coast of the Antarctic Peninsula along the Weddell Sea it was named after A Norwegian explorer called Carl Anton Larsen.

  12. Thomas Tesla says:

    A snow storm on top of Mt.Denali in Alaska

  13. Thomas Tesla says:

    A snow storm on top of Mt. Danali

  14. Ahmed hazzaf says:

    Russia 🇷🇺

  15. Dimitrios Fogg says:

    That could be a beautiful lenticular cloud over any mountain.
    This lens-shaped orographic wave cloud form when the air is stable and winds blow across hills and mountains from the same or similar direction at different heights through the troposphere.
    I’m Dimitris Fogg from Greece, well-lnown for my imagination :-]

  16. Eliseo says:

    Lenticular cloud over the Antarctic Peninsula

  17. Michael Keaton says:

    This looks like a lenticular cloud viewed from above. A very clear and sunny day with snow on the ground, a little bit of lift is all that would be needed to produce such a cloud. The specific location is impossible (for me!) to tell.

  18. John L Tappmeyer says:

    Looks like a lenticular cloud and it’s shadow to the lower left. There’s some mountain terrain, heavily sculpted by the pictured glacier, which terminates into the ocean. Could be a number of places. Some googling comes up with lots of lenticular cloud pictures over South Georgia Island. Lots of glaciers and mountains on South Georgia Island too. So that’s my best guess.

  19. Jim Anderson says:

    Lenticular cloud over the Antarctic peninsula.

  20. Zahid Mushtaq Bhat says:

    Looking towards snow
    Because snow is falling some places of earth
    It’s intrusted because it attracts the Humans especially when everything looks same, white everywhere
    And present little thing Which shades the camera is actually snow falling

  21. elnino says:

    an amazing lenticular cloud!

  22. Laura says:

    Looks like a hexagonal cloud. I’m assuming it is a convection cell that has a unique shape due to a high temperature gradient.

  23. T Heyer says:

    It’s a lenticular cloud created when moist air rises up and over a mountain peak.

  24. K Vronski says:

    Lenticular cloud over Mount Vinson, Antarctica?

  25. Emily Cassidy says:

    It’s gotta be one of those ghost dudes from Mario Kart.

  26. Martin Teymori says:

    cumulonimbus or cumulus

  27. Matias Klug says:

    Lenticular cloud.

  28. vivek chhalotre says:

    Matured stage of lenticular cloud over Greenland.

  29. Bandita Mohapatra says:

    It is a volcano on snow covered mountain peak in Antarctica.

  30. Vlad says:

    That might be a lenticular cloud over a mountain. The static cloud is formed in the troposphere, typically in perpendicular alignment to the wind direction. These clouds are formed up to 12.000 meters so it could be a lenticular cloud over Mount Everest or maybe over the alps! This photo could be taken from the iss? Or maybe from any satellite that flies over the Everest

  31. Becca says:

    I believe this is a Lenticular cloud. I also think this was taken with Landsat 8 using the Operational Land Imager (also known as OLI). I believe this image is using a natural color spectral band combination (4 3 2).

  32. Jagriti Bathla says:

    Cloud or maybe a piece of snow. I guess…

  33. Robson Tirelli says:

    I think it’s a vulcan expeling smoke and steam. May be Chile , Alaska or Iceland.

  34. Abid says:

    Sir it is just a frozen lake on mountains.

  35. Katie Wimberley says:

    This looks like a lenticular cloud over Mount Erebus in Antarctica. The other mountain you can see is Mount Terror.
    This image would have been produced by the polar orbiter satellite Terra.

  36. Leetia Jimmy Nowdlak says:

    North Atlantic…?