Earth Matters

EO December Puzzler

December 21st, 2021 by Mike Carlowicz

Happy Solstice Day!

Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The December 2021 puzzler is shown above. Your challenge is to use the comments section to tell us where it is, what we are looking at, and why it is interesting. In particular this month, what is the golden line/streak across the image?

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 offer details about 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 on the International Space Station, but we can promise you credit and glory. Well, maybe just credit. Within 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. 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: The answer is the Sápmi region of Finland (formerly known as Lapland), not far from Oulanka National Park. You can read more here. Tom Franco correctly noted the low Sun angle (but it is not a sunset), while Frank correctly noted the proximity to the Arctic Circle.

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21 Responses to “EO December Puzzler”

  1. Tom Franco says:

    The sun setting and low light hitting the mountain tops producing brilliant gold coloring on tree tops. Very nice!!!

  2. Tom Konnert says:

    Maybe a high elevation on a west facing slope in the Andes mountain range during summer. The gold striping is reflected sunlight, as this was shot around sunset and the sun was relatively low on the horizon resulting in the long shadows.

  3. Paul Sanborn says:

    It’s northeastern British Columbia or northwestern Alberta, because the land use includes both forestry (clearcuts) and oil fields (seismic survey lines in upper right corner). The golden streaks are light from the setting or rising sun catching steep scarps or hillslopes.

  4. Frank says:

    I’m guessing it’s somewhere just north of the arctic circle, but that the Golden streak is a mountain ridge line that is at a high enough elevation that we are seeing one of the only spots north of the artic circle that gets sunlight on Dec 21st.

  5. Jeff Isbell says:

    It is the sun reflecting off of the snow catching all of those areas at just the right angle.

  6. Louann Oravec says:

    Mackenzie River in Canada’s Northwest Territories

  7. Skeevy says:

    Either in Denali Park or somewhere on the Yukon River?

  8. Elina says:

    In the photo it is possible to see the courses of several rivers, with their meanders. it’s a photo taken in the northern hemisphere,
    the line of light that outlines the top of the mountains is due to the angle of incidence of the light of the solstice

  9. Chris Boswell says:

    Looks like a couple of flat-bottomed valleys/canyons with meandering frozen, snow-covered streams. The golden streak would be the south-facing wall of the canyon lit by low winter sun . The ridges show a snow-covered south face and forested north face so seemingly some not very high latitude where tree growth on the south-facing slopes is inhibited by sunny, dry conditions. Reminds me of northern Mongolia but for the straight lines on the right, which could be cuts through the forest for power lines. There also seem to be tracks along the ridge lines in the bottom part. Logging roads?

  10. Ivan says:

    Polar district on the spring or late winter

  11. Ivan Kordač says:

    Polar district on the spring or late winter
    North asia russia

  12. Jim says:

    Oulankajoki River and Harrihauta River in Sapmi region of Finland

  13. Jules Bywater-Lees says:

    I’m guessing it was taken in December.. some snow, fairly low sun at midday so a higher latitude, forest, mature river dumping into eastern body of water.. one of the rivers just north of Vladivostok, in the Natsional’nyy Park Udegeyskaya Legenda

  14. Lynn Howard says:

    Don’t know where it is, but there appears to be a creek draining into a river. Said river appears to have an abandoned oxbow at one point. The gold wavy lines seem to be trees on a ridgeline, catching the sunlight. I would think the straight white lines would be power line clearings, with the more squiggly white lines perhaps being roads. To the left of the river is a gently curving dark line which might be a railroad, but I would expect to see some snow there if so. The elevation seems to be high, unless the area is at a high latitude, because of the snow and the dark greenery.

  15. Jen says:

    The sunlit ridge may be a glacial esker. If I’m right it is remarkably intact. Not sure of the location – I see a few suggestions that it’s in Northern Canada or Alaska, but this stream is meandering with many cut-off oxbows. Streams in those locations tend to be braided with no cut-offs.

  16. Brandon Scott says:

    Northern alberta, Canada. Seismic lines, river, and logging blocks. The golden streak is the setting sun on the river Bank on the shortest day of the year. I’d say around 4pm local time

  17. Molly Breitmun says:

    Possibly a continental divide?

  18. Mark Vail says:

    Midday light hitting bluffs over a meandering river in the frozen north country. The mix of frozen lakes with forested islands and clear cuts of varying ages and the lack of human habitation makes it fairly remote, likely northern BC, , or the Yukon territory, possibly interior Alaska.

  19. John P. Mitrakas says:

    Happy new year to everyone!
    Maybe the Myskwa river near Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada.

  20. Laurel says:

    So what IS the answer????? It’s already nearing the end of January….

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