Astronaut Photography

Chernobyl, Ukraine
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Chernobyl, Ukraine

On April 26, 1986, the world’s worst nuclear power accident occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near the Ukrainian-Belarus border. Toxic radionuclides like Cs137 and Sr90 contaminated an area of 155,000 square kilometers in what is today Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed, sickened from radiation-induced illnesses, or resettled to uncontaminated land. This image, taken from the Russian Mir spacecraft, shows Chernobyl and the surrounding countryside.

Published Apr 26, 2004

Image of the Day Land

Kyiv, Ukraine
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Kyiv, Ukraine

Kyiv is rich in the history of western civilization. It was a trade center on the Baltic-Black Sea route in the 11th and 12th centuries, and one of the major cities in the Christian world, until Mongol invaders destroyed the city in 1240. Some of the 11th-century cathedrals, which contain famous artifacts, remain standing and have been restored.

Published Apr 19, 2004

Image of the Day Land

Betsiboka Estuary, Madagascar
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Betsiboka Estuary, Madagascar

The Betsiboka Estuary on the northwest coast of Madagascar is the mouth of Madagascar’s largest river and one of the world’s fast-changing coastlines. Nearly a century of extensive logging of Madagascar’s rainforests and coastal mangroves has resulted in nearly complete clearing of the land and fantastic rates of erosion. After every heavy rain, the bright red soils are washed from the hillsides into the streams and rivers to the coast. Astronauts describe their view of Madagascar as “bleeding into the ocean.” One impact of the extensive 20th century erosion is the filling and clogging of coastal waterways with sediment—a process that is well illustrated in the Betsiboka estuary. In fact, ocean-going ships were once able to travel up the Betsiboka estuary, but must now berth at the coast.

Published Apr 12, 2004

Image of the Day Land Water

“Hurricane” Catarina hits Brazil
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“Hurricane” Catarina hits Brazil

Until March 2004, only two tropical cyclones had ever been recorded in the South Atlantic Basin, and no hurricanes.

Published Apr 5, 2004

Image of the Day Atmosphere

On Top of the World: Everest and Makalu
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On Top of the World: Everest and Makalu

Astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) have a unique view of the world because of their position in a low orbit (200 nautical miles, 360 kilometers) relative to satellites and their ability to look at any angle out the windows of the spacecraft. ISS crewmembers recently took advantage of their vantage point to photograph a series of oblique views of the Himalayas looking south from over the Tibetan Plateau. At first glance, one might think that the image looks like a picture taken from an airplane, until you remember that the summits of Makalu (left, 8,462 meters, or 27,765 feet) and Everest (right, 8,850 meters, or 29,035 feet) are at the heights typically flown by commercial aircraft. The full mosaic covers over 130 kilometers (80 miles) of the Himalayan front, and could never be seen this way from an airplane.

Published Mar 29, 2004

Image of the Day Land

Kinshasa and Brazzaville
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Kinshasa and Brazzaville

This image, taken from the International Space Station on June 6, 2003, shows two capital cities on opposite banks of the Congo River. The smaller city is Brazzaville on the north side of the river, and Kinshasa on the south side. The cities lie at the downstream end of an almost circular widening in the river known as Stanley Pool. The international boundary follows the south shore of the pool (roughly 30 kilometers in diameter).

Published Mar 22, 2004

Image of the Day Land Life

Iceberg Melt, Near South Georgia
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Iceberg Melt, Near South Georgia

In January, 2004, astronauts on board the International Space Station took this detailed picture of melt water pooled on the surface of iceberg A-39D, a 2-kilometer wide, 11-kilometer long iceberg and drifting near South Georgia Island. The different intensities of blue are interpreted as different water depths. From the orientation of the iceberg, the deepest water (darkest blue) lies at the westernmost end of the iceberg. The water pools have formed from snowmelt—late January is the peak of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Published Mar 15, 2004

Image of the Day Water Snow and Ice

Central Africa Dust Storm
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Central Africa Dust Storm

This image was taken from the International Space Station on March 8, 2004, from a position about 1400 kilometers off the coast of Mauritania (about 600 kilometers west of the Cape Verde Islands). Looking northwest, this image shows the dusty Saharan airmass in the lower third of the view, with clear air beyond a marked northeast-trending boundary. The dust, which originated in Central Africa, is blowing west southwest, parallel to the front—a common trajectory during northern winters.

Published Mar 12, 2004

Atmosphere Land Dust and Haze

Mt. Fuji, Japan
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Mt. Fuji, Japan

Fuji, Japan’s tallest volcano (3,776 m) and a national symbol, is located about 110 km (70 miles) west-southwest of Tokyo in central Honshu, Japan. It is a highly recognizable target from space. The summit crater is about 250 m deep, with a diameter of about 500 meters.

Published Mar 8, 2004

Image of the Day Land

Argudan, Caucasus Mts., Russian Federation
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Argudan, Caucasus Mts., Russian Federation

The striking land use pattern, seen through a high magnification lens and highlighted by winter snow and low Sun angles, produces a unique view of the village of Argudan near the north slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. The image was taken with a handheld camera from the International Space Station in the early afternoon of December 20, 2003. This rural, agricultural community sits astride the main highway about 15 kilometers east-southeast of the city of Nalchik. Shadows from a line of trees planted as a windbreak near the highway give the road a ragged appearance. A small stream flowing northeastward exits heavily forested foothills through the village and fields of intensely cultivated croplands on the plains. Snow falls through the vegetation, making the woodlands appear extremely dark compared to the snow-covered fields. Astronauts also photographed nearby Nalchik, a tourist resort and industrial center. It is the major city of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic (population around 750,000), one of five small republics on the north slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, 200 kilometers west of Chechnya.

Published Mar 1, 2004

Image of the Day Land Life

Massive Sandstorm in Qatar
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Massive Sandstorm in Qatar

This striking photograph shows a massive sandstorm sweeping over the Persian Gulf state of Qatar as it races southward toward southeastern Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on February 15, 2004. A major upper-level, low-pressure system over southwestern Asia led to a series of storms sweeping through the area.

Published Feb 26, 2004

Image of the Day Atmosphere Land Dust and Haze

Major Dust Storm East of Bam, Iran
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Major Dust Storm East of Bam, Iran

This stunning photo shows a major dust storm raging in the Kerman Desert, just east of the city of Bam in Southeastern, Iran. The image was acquired by the crew of the International Space Station on the afternoon of February 15, 2004, using a digital camera with a 50-mm lens.

Published Feb 25, 2004

Atmosphere Land Dust and Haze

Thinning Upper Atmosphere
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Thinning Upper Atmosphere

From a vantage point about 360 km (225 miles) over the Earth, Space Station crewmembers photographed the crescent moon through the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere. At the bottom of the image, a closed deck of clouds is probably at about 6 km (3 miles). The shades of blue grading to black are caused by the scatter of light as it strikes gas molecules of the very low density upper atmosphere.

Published Feb 23, 2004

Image of the Day Atmosphere

Pangue Dam, Bíobío River, Chile
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Pangue Dam, Bíobío River, Chile

Chile’s Bíobío River flows northwestward from the high Cordillera of the Andes to the Pacific Ocean near Concepción, about 450 kilometers south of Santiago. The river is known globally for spectacular white-water rafting. This image shows a section of the river that skirts around Callaqui volcano in the Andes, and features the Pangue Dam and reservoir filling a narrow, meandering segment of the Bíobío River valley. Completed in 1996, the dam is the first of six hydroelectric dams planned by ENDESA, a Chilean utility company. The future development of the Bíobío River is a point of intense debate among Chileans, and has been called Chile’s “defining environmental issue.”

Published Feb 16, 2004

Image of the Day Land

100,000 Earth Photographs from the International Space Station
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100,000 Earth Photographs from the International Space Station

This image of the El Paso-Juárez area on the U.S.-Mexico border is the 100,000th photograph of Earth that astronauts have taken from the International Space Station. It was taken on January 26, 2004, by Expedition 8 crewmembers. The Rio Grande can be seen meandering through the area, forming the boundary between the sister cities of El Paso, Texas and Juárez, Chihuahua. North is to the right in this image, and the setting sun has cast the east side of the Sierra Juárez and Franklin Mountains into shadow.

Published Feb 9, 2004

Image of the Day Land

Glacial Retreat in Argentina
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Glacial Retreat in Argentina

For the crew onboard the International Space Station daylight views of the Earth’s Southern Hemisphere offer fewer opportunities to observe and document land features with onboard cameras. However, South America’s Patagonian Ice Fields and glaciers in the far southern Andes mountains offer beautiful, dynamic features with frequent passes whenever weather conditions permit. On the afternoon of January 3, 2004, the crew took this view of the Upsala Glacier in Argentina. A worldwide retreat of glaciers was observed during the twentieth century and most of the Patagonia’s glaciers, including Upsala, were no exception.

Published Feb 2, 2004

Image of the Day Water Snow and Ice

Five-Year-Old Icebergs near South Georgia Island
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Five-Year-Old Icebergs near South Georgia Island

These photographs, taken from the International Space Station in January, 2004, show two pieces of a massive iceberg that broke off from the Ronne Ice Shelf in October, 1998. The pieces of iceberg A-38 have floated relatively close to South Georgia Island. After 5 years and 3 months adrift, they are approximately 1,500 nautical miles from their origin. In the oblique image, taken a few minutes later, the cloud pattern reveals the impact of the mountainous islands on the local wind field. At this time, the icebergs are sheltered in the lee side of the island.

Published Jan 26, 2004

Image of the Day Water Snow and Ice

Effect of Drought on Great Salt Lake
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Effect of Drought on Great Salt Lake

Great Salt Lake serves as a striking visual marker for astronauts orbiting over North America. A sharp line across its center is caused by the restriction in water flow from the railroad causeway. The eye-catching colors of the lake stem from the fact that Great Salt Lake is hypersaline, typically 3–5 times saltier than the ocean, and the high salinities support sets of plants and animals that affect the light-absorbing qualities of the water. Space Station astronauts have recorded the decline in lake levels in response to a regional 5-year drought taking both detailed views and broad views of the entire lake. As lake levels have declined the salt works have become islands in the middle of a dry lakebed.

Published Jan 19, 2004

Image of the Day Land

Measuring Water Depth from the International Space Station
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Measuring Water Depth from the International Space Station

Looking out the window of the International Space Station, astronauts often take the time to admire and photograph tropical islands and coral reefs. From an altitude of 400 kilometers and with only a digital camera as a tool, it seems impossible to make detailed measurements of the depth of underwater features. However, a new technique developed by NOAA scientists has done just that—plotted the depths of lagoon features at Pearl and Hermes Reef, northwest Hawaii, using digital astronaut photography from the International Space Station (ISS).

Published Jan 12, 2004

Image of the Day Water

Photographs of Auroras from Space
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Photographs of Auroras from Space

If Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, had a sister she would be the goddess of Aurora. Glowing green ripples form arcs that constantly transform their shape into new glowing diaphanous forms. There is nothing static about auroras. They are always moving, always changing, and like snowflakes, each display is different from the last.

Published Jan 5, 2004

Image of the Day Atmosphere Heat

The Many Faces of Mount Everest
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The Many Faces of Mount Everest

Over the years, astronauts have used various viewing angles and lenses to capture the many faces of Everest. Differing seasons and illumination allow for very different, but always spectacular perspectives. The astronauts on the International Space Station obtained this view of Mt. Everest in late November 2003.

Published Dec 29, 2003

Image of the Day Land

Lake Titicaca
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Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca, at an elevation of 12,507 feet (3,812 meters) in the Andean Altiplano, is the highest large lake in the world. More than 120 miles long and 50 miles wide, it was the center of the Incan civilization, and today straddles the boundary between Peru and Bolivia.

Published Dec 22, 2003

Image of the Day Land

Water Boundaries
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Water Boundaries

The South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Argentina and Uruguay is a rich mixing bowl of different water masses. The nutrient-rich waters from the combined Paraná and Uruguay Rivers empty into the South Atlantic through the Rio de la Plata. Under the right conditions, especially in spring and early summer, the nutrients fertilize the offshore surface waters allowing for large plankton blooms. This unique image captures traces of several different water masses just southeast of Montevideo, Uruguay, and the Rio de la Plata. Close to the coast of Uruguay, the muddy fresh water plume snakes along the coast. Farther offshore, broad swirls of light blue-green and darker water mark a bloom of plankton. To the right, deep blue water covered by puffy clouds suggests another, warmer water mass just north of the bloom.

Published Dec 15, 2003

Image of the Day Life Water

Rio de la Plata
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Rio de la Plata

Rio de la Plata is the muddy estuary of the Paraná and Uruguay Rivers, and forms part of the border between Argentina and Uruguay. The rich estuary supports both capital cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. This image provides a snapshot of the complicated mixing in the Rio de la Plata between the fresh river waters and the water of the South Atlantic.

Published Dec 8, 2003

Image of the Day Land Water

Fall Colors Portland, Maine
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Fall Colors Portland, Maine

The ISS-7 crew of the International Space Station enjoyed a bird’s-eye view of New England’s fall colors on a fine October morning in 2003. The fall foliage of Baxter Woods Park in Portland, Maine, shows the reds and browns of a mix of trees, including maple, old-growth white oaks, and hemlock. Nearby Evergreen Cemetery is highlighted by the brilliant red and yellow leaves of maple trees. Surrounded by the cityscape of Portland, the wooded cemetery is known for both historic headstones and wooded trails.

Published Dec 1, 2003

Image of the Day Land Life

Fire Smog in the Central Valley of California
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Fire Smog in the Central Valley of California

The smoky remnants of October’s devastating fires still filled the southern California Central Valley on November 2, 2003. This “upside down” digital photograph was taken from the International Space Station from a position over the Pacific Northwest looking southward toward southern California. At the time this image was acquired, the fires had finally been brought under control, but ash and smoke remained trapped in the atmosphere above the valley, a bowl of land ringed by the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east (left) and the Coast Range Mountains to the west (right).

Published Nov 24, 2003

Image of the Day Atmosphere

Boston
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Boston

This image provides a good bird’s-eye view of the center of the city, including famous colonial and independence locations extending from Boston Common to the North End.

Published Nov 17, 2003

Image of the Day Land Life

Salton Sea
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Salton Sea

Dividing up water resources in southern California is always a controversial activity. Water allocations for the agriculture in the Imperial Valley, the Salton Sea, and the expanding urban and residential growth in San Diego County were in limbo until a recent agreement was drafted, allowing San Diego to buy conserved Colorado River water from the Imperial Valley. This astronaut photograph details an algal bloom in the Salton Sea, where such blooms continue to be a problem. They are caused by high concentrations of nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorous, that drain into the basin from the agricultural run-off. As the algae dies and decomposes, oxygen levels in the sea drop, causing fish kills and hazardous conditions for other wildlife.

Published Nov 10, 2003

Image of the Day Land Life

Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan
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Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Two capital cities in Pakistan lie next to one another but display land use patterns that are entirely different. Islamabad, with a population of 901,000 (ca. 1998) boasts a master-planned rectangular street pattern nestled against the Margala Hills (top left). The larger Rawalpindi (population 1,406,214 in 1998) lies to the south on the Soan River. Islamabad has grown rapidly since construction began in 1961. It was created as a new administrative district in Pakistan to be the home of government, the supreme court, and the diplomatic corps. The great white building of the Faisal Mosque appears on the northern margin of the city. By contrast with orthogonal Islamabad, Rawalpindi displays the radial land transportation pattern of many cities with a river flowing through the city center. City blocks are small and growth less controlled than in its newer neighbor.

Published Nov 3, 2003

Image of the Day Land

Fires in Southern California
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Fires in Southern California

Fires in the San Bernadino Mountains, driven by Santa Ana winds, burned out of control Sunday morning when these images were taken from the International Space Station (ISS) at roughly 11 a.m. PST. Thick yellow smoke blows south, blanketing the valley below. This photgraph, looking southeast, captures the smoke pall as the ISS approached and passed over the region. Lake Arrowhead is the reservoir near the left edge of the photograph.

Published Oct 27, 2003

Atmosphere Heat Land Fires