Astronaut Photography

Forest Fire Smoke Surrounding Mt. McKinley
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Forest Fire Smoke Surrounding Mt. McKinley

This view of Mt McKinley (Denali)—the highest point in North America (6,194 meters; 20,230 feet)—looks as if it were taken from an aircraft. In fact, an astronaut onboard the International Space Station took advantage of cloud-free skies and a powerful 800-millimeter lens to photograph this peak while the spacecraft was over the Gulf of Alaska, 800 miles to the south of the mountain. The powerful lenses are difficult to use, requiring motion compensation by the astronaut, so these kinds of detailed images of horizon detail are seldom taken. The rising sun casts long shadows across the Kahiltna Glacier that angles down from Denali (left).

Published Aug 22, 2005

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Retreating Aral Sea Coastlines
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Retreating Aral Sea Coastlines

The arrow-shaped island in the Aral Sea used to be a 35-kilometer-long visual marker, indicating the Aral Sea to astronauts. An image from the present International Space Station increment shows how much the coastline has changed as the sea level has dropped during the last three decades.

Published Aug 15, 2005

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Grasberg Mine, Indonesia
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Grasberg Mine, Indonesia

Located in the Sudirman Mountains of the Irian Jaya province of Indonesia, the Grasberg complex is one of the largest gold and copper mining operations in the world.

Published Aug 1, 2005

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Dallas, Texas
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Dallas, Texas

The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is the largest in Texas, with an approximate population of 6 million people in 2005.

Published Jul 25, 2005

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Hurricane Emily and Luna
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Hurricane Emily and Luna

This unusual high-oblique (from the side) panoramic view of the eye of Hurricane Emily in 2005 was shot by the crew of the International Space Station while they passed over the southern Gulf of Mexico looking eastward toward the rising moon. The eye appears as a depression in the cloud deck, which stretches out to the horizon and fades into the limb (the bright blue cross-section) of the Earth’s atmosphere. At the time this image was taken, Emily was a strengthening Category 4 hurricane with wind speeds approaching 155 miles per hour. The hurricane was moving west-northwest over the northwest Caribbean Sea about 135 miles southwest of Kingston, Jamaica.

Published Jul 20, 2005

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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

The city of Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia (after Riyadh), and is the country’s most important Red Sea port. This astronaut photograph depicts the downtown district of Al Balad, a residential area historically (and presently) occupied by wealthy merchants.

Published Jul 18, 2005

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Searles Lake, California
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Searles Lake, California

Searles Lake is known for the abundance of rare elements and evaporate minerals, such as trona, hanksite, and halite formed within its sediments. Evaporites are minerals that are left behind when saltwater evaporates. This astronaut photograph depicts the Searles Lake playa (characterized by white surface mineral deposits) bounded by the Argus and Slate Mountains. The width of the playa is approximately 10 kilometers. The center of the image is dominated by mining operations that extract sodium- and potassium-rich minerals (primarily borax and salt) for industrial use.

Published Jul 11, 2005

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Las Cruces, New Mexico
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Las Cruces, New Mexico

The city of Las Cruces is located within the Rio Grande Rift, a large geological feature that extends from Colorado southwards into Mexico. The Rio Grande Rift is marked by a series of depressions punctuated with uplifted mountains. Sinking in one place is often accompanied by uplift along boundaries of the grabens—the striking Organ Mountains to the east of Las Cruces are one such uplifted fault block.

Published Jul 4, 2005

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Sept-îles, Gulf of St Lawrence, Quebec, Canada
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Sept-îles, Gulf of St Lawrence, Quebec, Canada

Seven Island Bay (left side of the image) is one of the largest and best-protected harbors on Quebec’s north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Because this is both a deep-water port and ice-free year round, Sept-Îles is one of Quebec’s busiest ports. Locally produced materials (iron ore, alumina) comprise the bulk of port traffic, but Sept-Îles also acts as a trans-shipment point for goods moving to Europe, the Far East, and South America.

Published Jun 27, 2005

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Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands
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Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands

The Port of Rotterdam, also known as Europoort (Eurogate), has been an important trading center since approximately AD 1250. The history of the port reflects the evolution of the world’s economic base. Originally serving the North Sea herring fleets, it rapidly grew into a major mercantile port during the Dutch colonial period. The 19th century witnessed the Industrial Revolution, and steel and coal became major commodities passing through the port. Following the development of petroleum as a primary energy resource in the early 20th century, the port expanded westward to accommodate storage facilities and large oil tankers.

Published Jun 20, 2005

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Fire Scars in Australia’s Simpson Desert
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Fire Scars in Australia’s Simpson Desert

Bright orange fire scars show up the underlying dune sand in the Simpson Desert, 300 kilometers east of Alice Springs, in this astronaut photograph taken from the International Space Station in November, 2003. The fire scars were produced in a recent fire, probably during the same year. The image suggests a time sequence of events. Fires first advanced into the view from the lower left—parallel with the major dune trend and dominant wind direction. Then the wind shifted direction by about 90 degrees so that fires advanced across the dunes in a series of frond-like tendrils.

Published Jun 13, 2005

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Ural River Delta, Kazakhstan
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Ural River Delta, Kazakhstan

The Ural River is one of the two major rivers (the other is the Volga) that empty into the northern coast of the Caspian Sea, creating extensive wetlands. This image shows details of the Ural’s tree-like (or “digitate”) delta. This type of delta forms naturally when wave action is low, and sediment content in the river is high. New distributary channels form in the delta when the river breaches natural levees created by sediment deposition. The long main channel of the river in this image and several of the distibutary channels are too regular to be entirely natural, however. Like the famous Mississippi River delta in the United States, the Ural River delta has been significantly modified to reduce flooding and divert water.

Published Jun 6, 2005

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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 about 1000 A.D. The eruption created the 4.5-kilometer diameter, 850-meter deep summit caldera of the volcano, which is now filled with the waters of Lake Tianchi.

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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