Astronaut Photography

Tarbela Dam, Pakistan
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Tarbela Dam, Pakistan

The Indus River basin extends from the Himalaya Mountains that form the northeastern boundary of Pakistan to the alluvial plains of Sindh near the Arabian Sea coastline. Tarbela Dam is part of the Indus Basin Project, which resulted from a water treaty signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan. This treaty guaranteed Pakistan water supplies independent of upstream control by India. Designed primarily for water storage rather than power generation, the dam was completed in 1977. Turquoise waters of the Indus River (to the south of the dam) reflect the high proportion of silt and clay suspended in waters released by the spillways.

Published May 30, 2005

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Khartoum, Sudan
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Khartoum, Sudan

Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum, translates as “Elephant’s Trunk.” The name describes the shape of the Nile where the Blue and the White Nile Rivers unite to form the single Nile River that flows northward into Egypt. This image shows the rivers near the end of the dry season. The White Nile (western branch) runs through Sudan from Uganda. It originates in equatorial regions, where rainfall occurs throughout the year, and as a result it runs at a nearly constant rate throughout the year. The Blue Nile, nearly dry this time of year, flows out of the Ethiopian highlands, where rainfall is more seasonal. It swells in the late summer and early fall with rains from the summer monsoons. The flow at these times can be so great that the volume is too much for the river’s channel, causing the Nile to flow backward at the junction.

Published May 23, 2005

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Baitoushan Volcano, China and North Korea
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Baitoushan Volcano, China and North Korea

One of the largest known eruptions of the modern geologic period (the Holocene) occurred at Baitoushan Volcano (also known as Changbaishan in China and P’aektu-san in Korea) about 1000 A.D., with erupted material deposited as far away as northern Japan—a distance of approximately 1,200 kilometers. The eruption also created the 4.5-kilometer diameter, 850-meter deep summit caldera of the volcano, which is now filled with the waters of Lake Tianchi (or Sky Lake). This oblique astronaut photograph was taken during the winter season, and snow highlights frozen Lake Tianchi and lava flow lobes along the southern face of the volcano.

Published May 16, 2005

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London, United Kingdom
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London, United Kingdom

Numerous well-known landmarks appear in this detailed view of London taken from the International Space Station.

Published May 9, 2005

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Jericho, West Bank
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Jericho, West Bank

Commonly known as “the oldest city in the world,” Jericho is an important historical, cultural, and political center located northwest of the Dead Sea. This astronaut photograph illustrates the city center, and the original settlement mound of Tell es-Sultan. Total distance across the image is approximately 8 kilometers (5 miles). Two large refugee camps are located to the northwest and south of the city center. The high building density of the refugee camps contrasts sharply with the more open city center and irrigated fields (green polygonal patches) of Jericho, and illustrates one of the physical consequences of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the region.

Published May 2, 2005

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Spring Thaw, Straits of Mackinac
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Spring Thaw, Straits of Mackinac

he Mackinac Bridge spans a stretch of water five miles wide between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas. The strait connects Lakes Michigan (left) and Huron (right). The bridge is a combination of pier-supported spans with a high, central suspension sector that allows passage of lake steamers.

Published Apr 25, 2005

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Lima Metropolitan Area, Peru
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Lima Metropolitan Area, Peru

Located on the broad alluvial fan of the Rimac River, Lima is the capital of Peru and the only megacity (7.7 million inhabitants in 2002) located on the western coastline of South America.

Published Apr 18, 2005

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Rollout of Shuttle Discovery, Kennedy Space Center
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Rollout of Shuttle Discovery, Kennedy Space Center

International Space Station Astronaut Leroy Chiao, like the rest of NASA, tracks key milestones for the Space Shuttle Return-to-Flight operations. A lucky overpass of the Space Station over Florida on April 6, 2005, allowed Leroy and his crew mate Salizhan Sharipov a unique view of the rollout of the Space Shuttle Discovery. At the time of his observations, Discovery was approximately midway between the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and launch pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Published Apr 11, 2005

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Mount Olympus, Greece
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Mount Olympus, Greece

Mount Olympus is the highest peak in Greece. The 2,917-meter (9,570-foot) summit is the tallest in a mountain chain that runs north into Bulgaria and south into Turkey, via the Cyclades Islands. In this winter view, Olympus is the only peak with a dusting of snow—perhaps the reason its name in classical Greek means “the luminous one.” In Greek mythology, the peak was inhabited by the Twelve Olympians, the most famous gods of the ancient Greeks. North of Mount Olympus lies Macedonia, the homeland of Alexander the Great. Climbing the famous mountain is a favorite tourist activity today.

Published Apr 4, 2005

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Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl Volcanoes, Mexico
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Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl Volcanoes, Mexico

As part of the circum-Pacific “Ring of Fire,” Mexico hosts several of the world’s most continually active volcanoes, including the massive Popocatepetl (Aztec for “smoking mountain.”) This detailed, oblique astronaut photograph also depicts a neighboring volcano, Iztaccíhuatl (the “Woman in White.”)

Published Mar 28, 2005

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Arid Coast of Peru
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Arid Coast of Peru

Following the last major upheaval of the Andes Mountains, rivers flowing down into the Pacific Ocean have carved dramatic canyons along Peru’s southern coast. In geologic terms, the canyons are relatively young—carved over the past 8 million years. This oblique (off-vertical) image from March 14, 2003, provides a southward look down Peru’s rugged, arid coastline between 15.5 and 17 degrees South latitude. The canyons run from left to right and appear grayer than the surrounding reddish-brown terrain.

Published Mar 21, 2005

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Fringing Coral Reef, Red Sea
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Fringing Coral Reef, Red Sea

The Sudanese coast of the Red Sea is a well-known destination for diving due to clear water and abundance of coral reefs (or shia’ab in Arabic). Reefs are formed primarily from precipitation of calcium carbonate by corals. (In addition to its commonly used meaning, precipitation can also describe how something dissolved in a solution becomes “undissolved” through chemical or biological processes.) Massive reef structures are built over thousands of years of succeeding generations of coral. In the Red Sea, fringing reefs form on shallow shelves of less than 50 meters depth along the coastline. This astronaut photograph illustrates the intricate morphology of the reef system located along the coast between Port Sudan to the northwest and the Tokar River delta to the southeast.

Published Mar 14, 2005

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Coastal Change, Amazon River Mouth
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Coastal Change, Amazon River Mouth

Over a period of approximately four years a major island near the mouth of the Amazon River has been dramatically modified as the arms of the river have shifted. Between 2000 and 2005 the channel on the west side of the island has shifted to the northwest by eroding ~200 meters of the mainland shoreline and accreting (sediment on the west side of the island.

Published Mar 7, 2005

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Shenyang, China
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Shenyang, China

The city of Shenyang is China’s sixth largest city with a population ofover 4 million residents in the urban core. The city is the major industrial, commercial, and cultural center of northeastern China (the region historically known as Manchuria). Its geographic location on the flood plains of the Hun and Liao Rivers ensured an early agrarian economy that was later replaced by industrialization and natural resource extraction. The major portion of the local economy is devoted to industries such as metal smelting, coal mining, and petrochemical processing. Several southeast-trending plumes from industrial facilities are visible in the image.

Published Feb 28, 2005

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Mt. Damavand, Iran
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Mt. Damavand, Iran

Located approximately 50 kilometers northeast of Tehran, Mt. Damavand is an impressive stratovolcano that reaches 5,670 meters (18,598 feet) in elevation. Part of the Alborz Mountain Range that borders the Caspian Sea to the north, Damavand is a young volcano that has formed mostly during the Holocene Epoch (over approximately the last 10,000 years). The western flank of the volcano includes solidified lava flows with flow levees—“walls” formed as the side edges of flowing lava cooled rapidly, forming a chute that channeled the hotter, interior lava. Two such flows with well-defined levees are highlighted by snow on the mountainside.

Published Feb 21, 2005

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Solimões-Negro River Confluence at Manaus, Amazonia
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Solimões-Negro River Confluence at Manaus, Amazonia

The largest river on the planet, the Amazon, forms from the confluence of the Solimões (the upper Amazon River) and the Negro at the Brazilian city of Manaus in central Amazonas. At the river confluence, the muddy, tan-colored waters of the Solimões meet the “black” water of the Negro River. The unique mixing zone where the waters meet extends downstream through the rainforest for hundreds of kilometers, and is a famous attraction for tourists from all over the world. The tourism contributes to substantial growth in the city of Manaus. Twenty years ago the large park near the city center (center) lay on the eastern outskirts of Manaus.

Published Feb 12, 2005

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Issaouane Erg, Algeria
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Issaouane Erg, Algeria

he Issaouane Erg (sand sea) is located in eastern Algeria between the Tinrhert Plateau to the north and the Fadnoun Plateau to the south. Considered to be part of the Sahara Desert, the Issaouane Erg covers an area of approximately 38,000 km2. These complex dunes form the active southwestern border of the sand sea.

Published Feb 7, 2005

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Iberá Swamp Topography, NE Argentina
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Iberá Swamp Topography, NE Argentina

The central lake in this astronaut photograph is one of hundreds in the Iberá swamplands that were formed by South America’s second largest river, the Paraná. Although this great river now lies 120 kilometers to the north of this area today, its channel has swung over a great “inland delta” in the recent geological past.

Published Jan 31, 2005

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Tsunami Damage, Northwestern Sumatra
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Tsunami Damage, Northwestern Sumatra

Astronaut photographs illustrate the damage along the southwestern coast of Aceh Province, Indonesia.

Published Jan 24, 2005

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Salalah, Sultanate of Oman
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Salalah, Sultanate of Oman

The city of Salalah is the capital of the Dhofar region of Oman and is known as the “perfume capital of Arabia.” The city is a popular destination for tourism due to the natural attractions of the al Qar mountains (Jabal al Qar, in Arabic) and abundant stands of frankincense trees lining mountain stream courses. These can be seen in this astronaut photograph as green regions in the Jabal al Qar north of the city (located in the center of the image). The beaches and coastline are also major attractions for scuba diving and bird watching.

Published Jan 17, 2005

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Seoul, South Korea
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Seoul, South Korea

The city of Seoul (originally known as Hanyang) has been the capital of Korea for more than 600 years. This astronaut photograph illustrates the Seoul urban area at night. Major roadways and river courses (such as the Han River) are clearly outlined by street lights, while the brightest lights indicate the downtown urban core (center of image) and large industrial complexes. One such complex is located at the far left of the image and occupies an island in the Yellow Sea. Very dark regions in the image are mountains or large bodies of water. Nighttime images have been used extensively in urban climate and urban growth research to map the extent of urban (bright) versus rural (dark) regions.

Published Jan 10, 2005

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Howland Island, Pacific Ocean
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Howland Island, Pacific Ocean

Howland Island is a United States possession located in the north Pacific between Australia and the Hawaiian Islands. Prior to 1890, organic nitrate (guano) was mined from the island by both the United States and the British. This tiny island (1.6 km²) is currently part of the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge system, and provides nesting areas and forage for a variety of birds and marine wildlife. The island is composed of coral fragments and is surrounded by an active fringing reef. White breakers encircling the island indicate the position of the reef. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station photograph numerous reefs around the world as part of a global mapping and monitoring program.

Published Jan 4, 2005

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Well-head Flare, Calanscio Sand Sea, Libya
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Well-head Flare, Calanscio Sand Sea, Libya

A plume of black smoke blowing westward is silhouetted against linear dunes in the great sand sea of northeast Libya. Smoke from flares at remote well heads is commonly seen by astronauts flying over the Sahara Desert. The plume dispersal pattern visible at the left edge of the image may be due to upper-level winds or gravitational settling of heavier particulates.

Published Dec 27, 2004

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New York’s Finger Lakes
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New York’s Finger Lakes

A late fall snowstorm frosted the hills of the Finger Lakes region of central New York in early December, 2004. Shapes of the snow-covered hills are accented by the low Sun angles, and contrast with the darker, finger-shaped lakes filling the region’s valleys. The steep, roughly parallel valleys and hills of the Finger Lakes region were shaped by advancing and retreating ice sheets that were as much as 2 miles deep during the last ice age (2 million years to about 10,000 years ago). River valleys were scoured into deep troughs; many are now filled with lakes. The two largest lakes, Seneca and Cayuga, are so deep that the base of their lakebeds are below sea level.

Published Dec 20, 2004

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Lake Sambhar, India
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Lake Sambhar, India

Lake Sambhar, India’s largest salt lake, sits west of the Indian city of Jaipur (Rajasthan, NW India). On the eastern end, the lake is divided by a 5-kilometer long dam made of stone. East of the dam are salt evaporation ponds where salt has been farmed for a thousand years. This image, taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station, shows Lake Sambhar’s eastern saltworks in detail. Today, they are operated by a joint venture between Hindustan Salts and the Government of Rajasthan. East of the dam is a railroad, built by the British before India’s independence, that provides access from Sambhar Lake City to the salt works.

Published Dec 13, 2004

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Moreno Glacier, Argentina
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Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Perito Moreno (or Moreno Glacier) is located in the icefields of southern Patagonia and is the centerpiece of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. The glacier is also noteworthy as a tourist attraction, due to periodic formation of an ice dam between the main portion of Lago (Lake) Argentino to the northeast and a southern extension of the lake (Brazo Rico).

Published Dec 6, 2004

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Shark Bay, Australia
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Shark Bay, Australia

Published Nov 29, 2004

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Lake Valencia, Venezuela
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Lake Valencia, Venezuela

Lago de Valencia (Lake Valencia) is located in north-central Venezuela and is the largest freshwater lake in the country. The lake was formed approximately 2-3 million years ago due to faulting and subsequent damming of the Valencia River. The lake has been completely dry during several discrete periods of its geologic history. Since 1976 Lake Valencia water levels have risen due to diversion of water from neighboring watersheds—it currently acts as a reservoir for the surrounding urban centers (such as Maracay).

Published Nov 22, 2004

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Green Circles—Al Khufrah Oasis, Libya
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Green Circles—Al Khufrah Oasis, Libya

Green circles in the desert frequently indicate tracts of agriculture supported by center-pivot irrigation. The Al Khufrah Oasis in southeastern Libya (near the Egyptian border) is one of Libya’s largest agricultural projects, and is an easy-to-recognize landmark for orbiting astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Because only about 2 percent of Libya’s land receives enough rainfall to be cultivated, this project uses fossil water from a large underground aquifer. The Libyan government also has a plan called the Great Man Made River to pump and transport these groundwater reserves to the coast to support Libya’s growing population and industrial development.

Published Nov 15, 2004

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Corrientes, Argentina, and the Parana River
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Corrientes, Argentina, and the Parana River

Corrientes, Argentina (sits on the east bank of the Paraná River, South America’s third largest river. Corrientes is located just inside Argentina, across the river from the southwestern tip of Paraguay.

Published Nov 8, 2004

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