Earth Matters

October Puzzler

October 26th, 2022 by Kathryn Hansen

Update on December 12, 2022: This puzzler image shows Mount Terror, a shield volcano located on the eastern side of Ross Island, Antarctica. Congratulations to Garrett Layne, the first person to correctly identify the mountain, its location, and the elevation profile. Special mention goes to Joe Cornelius, who used the elevation profile to identify candidate islands and arrived at the correct answer. Read more about Mount Terror in the Image of the Day.

Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The October 2022 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. This month, special mention will go to those who can also describe what the visualization below the image is showing.

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 a 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 have 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!

39 Responses to “October Puzzler”

  1. Garrett Layne says:

    The image is showing Mount Terror on Ross Island, Antarctica. The lower image is showing the elevation profile of Mount Terror from South to North. It looks like the image was taken using a standard RGB from Landsat 8 or Landsat 9.

  2. Jeremy Hamm says:

    This is an image from the Antarctic Ice sheet. The chart represents elevation (meters) and latitude

  3. Isaac Pinkus says:

    Antarctic mountain range

  4. Terry Richard says:

    Unusual early spring melt of mountain range in Antarctica.

  5. Twila Moon says:

    I’m guessing that it’s the Antarctic Peninsula, and that it’s pretty surprising to see some water-saturated surface at this time of year. I’m guessing that the plot below is an elevation profile from ICESat-2, showing the up and over from one side of the Peninsula to the other.

  6. Twila Moon says:

    Guess changed to the Transantarctic Mountains because those plot latitudes are too far south to be on the Peninsula and reaching sea level. 🙂

  7. Erik L. says:

    This is a satellite image of Mount Terror in Antarctica. The visualization is a chart plotting elevation in meters vs latitude. No idea what satellite took it though.

  8. Tyler Spence says:

    A view of Ross Island, Antarctica…home to McMurdo Station. An elevation profile.

  9. Maggie Kane says:

    This is an image of Antarctic ice that is thinner than it has been previously allowing some of the land below to show through. It shows some blue ice through a thin layer of snow near the summit of a mountain, possibly Mt. Erebus.

  10. Clive Harris says:

    It’s Antarctica and this is the first time this vegetation has
    been exposed in [x] amount of years – probably millennia.

  11. Joe says:

    Mount Terror on Ross Island, Antarctica.

    The chart is of altitude from -77.35 to -77.75 latitude, with sea level at about 77.37 and 77.67, so likely an island.

    The chart spans .3° latitude, so 110Km *.3 = 33Km span, from north to south, with a max elevation of ~3,200 meters

    Going through Wikipedia’s list of all the Antarctic islands at 77.x latitude, Ross was the first one that approached the proper size and altitude.

    Checking Google Maps I was even able to match the image.

    This is a thumbnail of the island’s significance, from Wikipedia:

    Ross Island was the base for many of the early expeditions to Antarctica. It is the southernmost island reachable by sea. Huts built by Scott’s and Shackleton’s expeditions are still standing on the island, preserved as historical sites.

    Today Ross Island is home to New Zealand’s Scott Base, and the largest Antarctic settlement, the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station. Greenpeace established World Park Base on the island and ran it for five years, from 1987 to 1992.

    I didn’t know anything about anything and had to confirm it was latitude, below the equator, look up the degree to Km conversion, discover the Wikipedia list and pages on each island, as well as Encyclopedia Westarctica.

    This was so much fun, thank you!

    PS: Sneaky of you to do the second highest peak on the island. Nice!

    –Joe Cornelius

  12. janae rosellen says:

    A mountain with snow melting.The graph is how much the snow\glacier has melted throughout time. ???‍♀️

  13. Sarah Bouachir says:

    Is it the Alps? It looked like the Andes but the chart I’d assume is
    snowpack and altitude in meters. 3500meters would be the
    Swiss Alps I believe

  14. L. DiCesare says:

    Good evening,

    Would you mind my guessing at the above October Puzzler?

    Is it the Ural Mountains, specifically the Ural-forest area including Ural-tundra in Russia? The Urals can sometimes account for 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen regeneration.

    Whether or not it is the Urals, it is breathtaking.

    Thank you.

  15. Shahu says:

    Icy cliff of a mountain. Blue Ice beneath a section. Probably in Himalaya or Karakoram. Eg mountain passes to Siachen Glacier like Sia La, Bilafond La also show such features in Google Maps

  16. Dennis J. D. Johnson says:

    It looks like a melting mountain range in either The Arctic or AnTarctic regions…probably Antartic; More likely the Antartic

  17. Roberto Jiménez says:

    Penguin fecal remains

  18. Akshay Patil says:

    The above image is could be of Glacier. Can be himalayan or Antarctica.
    The second graph is showing may be the temperature at the Glacier per depth

  19. Adam Carnall says:

    Assuming the graph shows latitude vs elevation I suspect this is a satellite photo of Mount Terror, Ross Island, Antarctica.

  20. Ivan Kordač says:

    My first good guess is Fuji Japan, not exact but it comes to mind, a note about the first snowfall at high altitude anywhere on some volcanic mountain

  21. Georg says:

    The posted image could show Mountains in Antarctica near McMurdo Station and their profile in altitude.
    A try.

  22. Joe Fiore says:

    Volcano in Antarctica. Mt Sidley.
    Blue areas are partially melted ice.
    Lichen growing on the visible rocks.

  23. Dan Liebert says:

    It’s an area just west of Ronne Ice Shelf, north of Vinson Massi.

  24. Kiernan Marrero says:

    I personally think it’s a mountain in Antarctica. Could be wrong could be right
    Guessed that because of the height going to near sea level
    And it looks like it’s not very pointy and it looks smooth
    and curved. Probably wrong but I tried and thought.

  25. Heike Dixon says:

    I guess it could be Antarctica , Queen Maud Land.
    The light blue patches are ice, molted and refrosted snow.
    The blurry part beneath the rocky formation could be snowdust due to winds.

  26. Bruce C. Monger says:

    Greenland Ice Sheet. It show pooling lakes that form in summer and can suddenly drain downward toward bedrock.

  27. Anonymous says:


  28. Karen Dunning says:

    Glacier field in Denali national park. Interesting because the contrast between the bare rock peeking through and the blue depths of one of the crevasses, show how incredibly deep the ice and snow are. The chart shows average temperature in the blue crevass, making 10 measurements per day for a year.

  29. John Thomas says:

    Mt. Terror on Ross Island, Antarctica.

  30. Rakesh Kumar Pandey says:

    Trees covered by avalanche ice .

  31. Alasdair Kerr says:

    could it be Antartica and the dark parts are trees…

  32. Lucas says:

    This is a satellite image of Mt Terror, an inactive shield volcano in on Ross island in Antartica, located at 77°31′S 168°32′E.

    According to a quick search on Wikipedia, Mt Terror is 3,262 meters or 10,699 feet high.
    The second image is of an elevation chart.

    It seemed to me immediately that the image was of Antarctica. Looking more closely I thought I could spot what looked like a circular formation, slightly offset at about 4 o’clock from the centre of the image. That, along with the elevation chart (which I only saw after I had clicked through to submit my answer!) added some support to my suspicion it was a volcano.

    A quick search of contender peaks between 3200 and 3400 meters high narrowed the selection down to just a few. A Google earth comparison confirmed this is indeed Mt Terror.

  33. Andrew McDonald says:

    How about Erebus, Antarctica? Most southerly active volcano & only one on the continent.

  34. Marco says:


  35. Joe says:

    Just adding a note to my earlier reply of Mount Terror: judging from the shadow cast by a mogul at about 7 ixclock from the rocky peak, I’m guessing that the image is either very recent or taken around the same time of some earlier year?

    –Joe Cornelius

  36. Manuel Uribe says:

    Avalanche on the slopes of Everest?

  37. Bhushan says:

    Himalaya it can be

  38. Jane says:

    Fossils becoming unearthed…

  39. Mark Hickman says:

    I’m guessing Antarctica and the blue patches are showing the ice is melting.