Earth Matters

May Puzzler

May 11th, 2021 by Kathryn Hansen

UPDATE on May 17, 2021 — This puzzling image shows part of Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado’s Tenmile Range. Congratulations to Steve Bassett, who guessed the correct location and deduced that the photo was shot from the International Space Station. The detailed view pictured here shows the resort’s newer slopes, which opened to skiers and snowboarders for the 2013-2014 winter season. See the full image and story in our Image of the Day, published on May 15. 

Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The May 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!

20 Responses to “May Puzzler”

  1. Ben Ducas says:

    Mississippi Delta

  2. Ducosky Miguel says:

    Petermann Glacier – Greenland – Climate change

  3. Emily C says:

    Looks like a river delta that would be featured on an album cover in the mid-1990s. Like a Third Eye Blind album cover. Am I close?

  4. Holger Wille says:

    It is the top view of a major ski area in winter. Some of the straight lines show where the ski lifts are running up the mountains. The bottom left shows the top of the mountain, while the upper right is the bottom. Individual dots at the ends of the straight lines are the terminals for the ski lifts.

    The white meandering paths are the individual ski runs that were cleared into the forrest (trees show up as black “ground cover” below the top mountain area).

    The narrow white lines towards the top of the image are roads leading to parking lots (which look a bit like fingerprint patterns) and the ski lift terminals.

  5. Steve Bassett says:

    It’s Breckenridge Ski Area, in Colorado!
    It looked like a ski area, in natural-color, with fairly high resolution.
    The ski area appears fairly large because it has many chairlifts.
    The “glading” or forest thinning apparent in the top half of the image made me think it’s in the western U.S. where forest thinning is common in dry forest types.
    The ridge above the treeline in the southwest corner of the image, indicated it would be a premier high-elevation ski area.
    I looked at the top ten north american ski areas by area, and it wasn’t in that set, though the California ski areas had much more sparse forest cover, so I limited my search to Colorado Ski areas. After looking at Arapahoe Basin, Aspen, and Beaver Creek, Breckenridge was an obvious match.

    • Steve Bassett says:

      I can’t figure out what platform or sensor was used to capture the image. It is very high resolution, maybe sub-meter. The image orientation is rotated counterclockwise several degrees off north. There might be motion blur in the top right corner of the image, so my best guess is it’s a photo taken from the ISS.

  6. Wooseey says:

    I’d bet my buttons that it is the Andes mountain range in spring, while there is cloud cover and just a slight drizzle, not to mention the unusual gathering of Psittaciformes (known to you muggles as parrots) hovering at an unusually low altitude in the far right corner of the image above, creating a slight blur. I’d also bet that the temperature was exactly 84 degrees celcius, and that this picture was taken in the 1950s, because the world was black and white back then, as is clearly shown in said image.

  7. Daniele Ryser says:

    It is a ski area

  8. Ryland Giebelhaus says:

    Ski hill!!!

  9. Alexis Filiatrault says:

    Looks like a delta somewhere in Canada. Because of the « cut forests »

  10. Chris says:

    Wow, this one has me stumped!
    The bright, white river-shaped flows could be water, ice, or snow reflecting a lot of sunlight.
    My other guess is that they might be salt flows in a dry environment.
    (I still have no clue what the “fingerprint-shaped” white areas are near the center-top of the image.)
    Good puzzler!

  11. Patricia Daly says:

    I was interested in the picture of the the roadway across the bay of Saint Petersburg.
    The caption mentioned the extensive work Saint Petersburg went to to protect their quantity and quality of ancient artifacts from ocean rise. I live in one of the three towns
    Plymouth, Kingston and Duxbury in Massachusetts, trying to balance protection of two barrier beaches and the commercial oyster farms and recreation resources behind those barrier beaches along with the down town of Plymouth an important historical and commercial area.

  12. Hester Weber says:

    Bothnian bay before the break up.

  13. Barb H says:

    This looks like a skiing resort.

  14. Andrew says:

    Snowfield with ski runs. Probably not a permanent snowfield but one that comes and goes – winter snow, summer transhumant grazing.

  15. Kathryn Henderson says:

    Could it be one of the Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

  16. Stephanie Macchi says:

    Mekong Delta

  17. Joseph Fanning says:

    This picture definitely looks like the Breckenridge Ski Area, in Colorado. I’ve been there multiple times myself and can confirm this. It’s definitely zoomed in and probably taken from a helicopter or really high ski lift with a nice digital DSLR x 40 plus camera Nikon or Cannon.

  18. Mike Akalski says:

    braided river delta with red and green flora showing at low tide. Alaska, Lower Cook Inlet, Kachemak Bay.

  19. Cinema Best XXI Television And Movies says:

    I enjoy reading a post that can make people think. Also,
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