Astronaut Photography

Fires in Central and Southern Africa
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Fires in Central and Southern Africa

Fire scars and smoke plumes result from biomass burning in the savannas of southern Democratic Republic of Congo. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station observed the seasonal increase in savanna burning, which traditionally peaks in June in southern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Published Jul 30, 2002

Atmosphere Land Life Fires

Summit Crater of Mauna Loa
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Summit Crater of Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on our planet—the summit elevation is 4,170 m (over 13,600 ft), but the volcano’s summit rises 9 km above the sea floor. The sharp features of the summit caldera and lava flows that drain outward from the summit are tribute to the fact that Mauna Loa is one of the Earth’s most active volcanoes. The most recent eruption was in 1984. The straight line the cuts through the center of the crater from top to bottom is a rift zone—an area that pulls apart as magma reaches the surface.

Published Jul 28, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Salt Ponds, South San Francisco Bay
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Salt Ponds, South San Francisco Bay

The red and green colors of the salt ponds in South San Francisco Bay are brilliant visual markers for astronauts. The STS-111 crew photographed the bay south of the San Mateo bridge in June, 2002.

Published Jul 21, 2002

Image of the Day Water

Pacific NW—Washington, Vancouver Island
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Pacific NW—Washington, Vancouver Island

his cloudless view of northwestern Washington and southeastern British Columbia is a study in varied land-use patterns: the forested Olympic Peninsula and Cascade Range contrast with the wheatlands of the drier east side of the mountains. The checkerboard pattern of clearcut forest is accented by snow in the range east of Seattle. Major cities and seaports of the Pacific Northwest—Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver—take advantage of the deep, sheltered channels.

Published Jun 30, 2002

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New Cornelia Mine, Arizona
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New Cornelia Mine, Arizona

Although this photograph may appear to be a small pit mine as seen from the air, it is actually a pit mine that is about a mile wide and just over a thousand feet deep as photographed by astronauts orbiting the Earth on board the International Space Station. The New Cornelia Mine is located just south of Ajo, Arizona. Small-scale mining of copper in this area began with the Spaniards and Mexicans as early as 1750. This large-scale, systematic operation began in 1912 and expanded rapidly for the next 50 years. Since the mid 1980s, activity has been limited because of low prices for copper on the world market. Note the tailings deposits to the east (right) and the larger containment ponds for extraction processes to the northeast.

Published Jun 23, 2002

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Rocky Mountain Fires
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Rocky Mountain Fires

This photograph taken by the new International Space Station crew on June 18, 2002, shows the eastern flank of the Hayman Fire burning in the foothills southwest of Denver.

Published Jun 21, 2002

Atmosphere Land Life Fires

Rocky Mountain Fires
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Rocky Mountain Fires

This photograph taken by the new International Space Station crew on June 18, 2002, shows the Hayman Fire burning in the foothills southwest of Denver.

Published Jun 20, 2002

Atmosphere Land Life Fires

Plantation forestry harvesting near Tokoroa , New Zealand
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Plantation forestry harvesting near Tokoroa , New Zealand

Forests are being harvested near Tokoroa, New Zealand, which has been described as the hub of New Zealand’s forestry industry. The large tan areas are cleared forests. The land use pattern that looks like tan beads on a string are clearings used to stock timber before it is sent to pulp and paper mills about 4 kilometers south of Tokoroa. The light green areas around the town are dairy farms.

Published Jun 16, 2002

Image of the Day Land Life

Wolf and Copper Fires Near Los Angeles
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Wolf and Copper Fires Near Los Angeles

This photograph taken from the International Space Station on June 7, 2002, shows the Wolf and Copper Fires burning in the hills outside Los Angeles.

Published Jun 15, 2002

Atmosphere Land Life Fires

Wolf and Copper Fires Near Los Angeles
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Wolf and Copper Fires Near Los Angeles

This photograph taken from the International Space Station on June 7, 2002, shows the Copper Fire burning in the hills outside Los Angeles.

Published Jun 15, 2002

Atmosphere Land Life Fires

Saharan Dust over Senegal
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Saharan Dust over Senegal

Airborne African dust regularly reaches northeastern South America and the Caribbean. Westward dust transport from the Sahara across the central Atlantic has been a common occurrence this spring, with major events visible in both satellite images and photographs. Cap Vert, the westernmost point of Senegal, is dimly visible beneath the dust mass (center); the Arquipélago dos Bijagós in Guinea Bissau lies opposite the mouth of the sediment-laden Rio Corubal.

Published Jun 9, 2002

Image of the Day Atmosphere

Bullock Fire
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Bullock Fire

This image of the Bullock Fire was taken by the crew of the International Space Station using a digital camera on May 23, 2002, two days after the fire began. By May 25, fighting the fire was listed as the top national priority.

Published Jun 4, 2002

Atmosphere Land Life Fires

Egmont National Park, New Zealand
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Egmont National Park, New Zealand

The lush forests of Egmont National Park, on New Zealand‘s North Island, contrast with the pasturelands outside the circular park boundaries. The unique shape of the park results from its first protection in 1881, which specified that a forest reserve would extend in a 9.6-kilometer radius from the summit of Mt. Taranaki (named Mt. Egmont by Captain Cook). The park covers about 33,500 hectares and Mt. Egmont stands 2518 meters tall. The volcano began forming 70,000 years ago, and last erupted in 1755. A series of montane habitats occur in procession up the flanks of the volcano—from rainforest, to shrubs, to alpine, and finally snow cover.

Published Jun 2, 2002

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San Francisco Bay
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San Francisco Bay

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of the San Francisco Bay area in April, 2002. The gray urban footprint of San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and their surrounding suburbs contrast strongly with the green hillsides. Of particular note are the Pacific Ocean water patterns that are highlighted in the sun glint. Sets of internal waves traveling east impinge on the coastline south of San Francisco. At the same time, fresher bay water flows out from the bay beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, creating a large plume traveling westward. Tidal current channels suggest the tidal flow deep in thebay. Because the ISS orbits are not synchronous with the sun, astronauts view the Earth with variable solar illumination angles. This allows them to document phenomena such as the sun reflecting differentially off surface waters in a way that outlines complicated water structures.

Published May 26, 2002

Image of the Day Water

Thunderstorms over Brazil
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Thunderstorms over Brazil

This photograph, acquired in February 1984 by an astronaut aboard the space shuttle, shows a series of mature thunderstorms located near the Paraná River in southern Brazil. With abundant warm temperatures and moisture-laden air in this part of Brazil, large thunderstorms are commonplace. A NASA-funded researcher has discovered that tiny airborne particles of pollution may modify developing thunderclouds by increasing the quantity and reducing the size of the ice crystals within them. These modifications may affect the clouds’ impact on the Earth’s “radiation budget,” or the amount of radiation that enters and leaves our planet.

Published May 15, 2002

Image of the Day Atmosphere

Fires in Mexico and Central America
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Fires in Mexico and Central America

The bright blue water of the Gulf of Honduras contrasts sharply with the smokey pall over Guatemala and Belize in this photograph taken from the International Space Station. Fires in the Yucatan Penninsula and northern Central America began burning in early April, and intensified by the end of the month.

Published May 14, 2002

Water Fires

Paris in April
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Paris in April

The colors of the agricultural fields surrounding Paris are striking in thespringtime, even when viewed from a 400-kilometer orbital altitude, as seen in this photography taken by astronauts on board the International Space Station.

Published May 12, 2002

Image of the Day Land Life

Aswan High Dam in 6-meter Resolution from the International Space Station
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Aswan High Dam in 6-meter Resolution from the International Space Station

Astronaut photography of the Earth from the International Space Station has achieved resolutions close to those available from commercial remote sensing satellites—with many photographs having spatial resolutions of less than six meters. Astronauts take the photographs by hand and physically compensate for the motion of the spacecraft relative to the Earth while the images are being acquired.

Published May 6, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Mount Everest from the International Space Station
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Mount Everest from the International Space Station

This detailed image of Everest, the highest (29,035 feet, 8850 meters) mountain in the world, shows early morning light on the eastern Kangshung Face. The mountains appear to jump out of the picture because the image was taken with low sunlight using an electronic still camera equipped with an 800 mm lens.

Published Apr 28, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Coastal Fog, South Peruvian Coast at Pisco
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Coastal Fog, South Peruvian Coast at Pisco

Coastal fog commonly drapes the Peruvian coast. This image captures complex interactions between land, sea, and atmosphere along the southern Peruvian coast. When Shuttle astronauts took the image in March 2002, the layers of coastal fog and stratus were being progressively scoured away by brisk south to southeast winds.

Published Apr 21, 2002

Image of the Day Atmosphere Land Water

Rio de Janeiro
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Rio de Janeiro

A dengue fever outbreak has plagued Rio de Janeiro since January 2002. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease. The elimination of standing water, which is a breeding ground for the mosquitoes, is a primary defense against mosquito-borne diseases like dengue. Removing such water remains a difficult problem in many urban regions.

Published Apr 14, 2002

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Ash and Steam, Soufriere Hills Volcano, Monserrat
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Ash and Steam, Soufriere Hills Volcano, Monserrat

International Space Station crew members are regularly alerted to dynamic events on the Earth’s surface. On request from scientists on the ground, the ISS crew observed and recorded volcanic activity from the summit of Soufriere Hills on March 20, 2002.

Published Apr 7, 2002

Image of the Day Atmosphere Land

Glacial Retreat in Chilean Patagonia
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Glacial Retreat in Chilean Patagonia

The San Quintín Glacier is the largest outflow glacier of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field in southern Chile. Like many glaciers worldwide during the twentieth century, San Quintín appears to be losing mass and possibly retreating.

Published Mar 31, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Image Transformations-Montserrat
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Image Transformations-Montserrat

An Earth Observatory reader used widely available software to correct the oblique perspective of an earlier photograph of Montserrat and to adjust the color. The story of how he modified the image includes step-by-step instructions that can be applied to other photographs.

Published Mar 27, 2002

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Kiritimati, Kiribati (Christmas Island)
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Kiritimati, Kiribati (Christmas Island)

Pronounced “Ki-ris-mas,” Kiritimati Island has a large in-filled lagoon that gives it the largest land area (125 square miles, 321 square kilometers) of any atoll in the world. Captain Cook named the atoll Christmas Island when he arrived on Christmas Eve in 1777. Used for nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s, the island is now valued for its marine and wildlife resources. It is particularly important as a seabird nesting site—with an estimated 6 million birds using or breeding on the island, including several million Sooty Terns. Rainfall on Kiritimati is linked to El Ni&ntidle;o patterns, with long droughts experienced between the wetter El Ni&ntidle;o years.

Published Mar 24, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Tsunami Vulnerability in Camana, Peru
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Tsunami Vulnerability in Camana, Peru

A tsunami washed over the low-lying coastal resort region near Camaná,southern Peru, following a strong earthquake on June 23, 2001. The earthquake was one of the most powerful of the last 35 years and had a magnitude of 8.4. After the initial quake, coastal residents witnessed a sudden draw-down of the ocean and knew a tsunami was imminent. They had less than 20 minutes to reach higher ground before the tsunami hit. Waves as high as 8 meters came in four destructive surges reaching as far as 1.2 kilometers inland. Thousands of buildings were destroyed, and the combined earthquake and tsunami killed as many as 139 people.

Published Mar 17, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Shiveluch—Kamchatkan volcanoes
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Shiveluch—Kamchatkan volcanoes

Shiveluch volcano anchors the northern end of a volcanic chain of more than 100 volcanoes covering the Kamchatkan Peninsula. It is one of the most active volcanoes along the Pacific Rim. In 2001, astronauts aboard the International Space Station Alpha looked north toward Shiveluch’s scarred southern slope to get a unique perspective of the impressive cluster of volcanoes in the Klyuchevskaya group and Shiveluch.

Published Mar 10, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Mesopotamian Marshes
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Mesopotamian Marshes

The Al Hawizah Marshes comprise the largest remaining tract of wetlands in the Mesopotamian Marshlands of Iran and Iraq. In the last 10 years, damming and diversion of waters from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and draining of wetlands has led to a loss of 85% of wetlands that once covered about 20,000 square km (7,725 square miles).

Published Mar 3, 2002

Image of the Day Land Life

Santa Maria Volcano, Guatemala
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Santa Maria Volcano, Guatemala

The eruption of Santa Maria volcano in 1902 was one of the largest eruptions of the 20th century, forming a large crater on the mountain’s southwest flank. Since 1922, a lava-dome complex, Santiaguito, has been forming in the 1902 crater. Growth of the dome has produced pyroclastic flows as recently as the 2001—they can be identified in this image. The volcano is considered dangerous because of the possibility of a dome collapse such as one that occurred in 1929, which killed about 5000 people. A second hazard results from the flow of volcanic debris into rivers south of Santiaguito, which can lead tocatastrophic flooding and mud flows.

Published Feb 24, 2002

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Anti-Atlas Mountains, Morocco
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Anti-Atlas Mountains, Morocco

The Anti-Atlas Mountains of northern Africa and the nearby Atlas mountains were created by the prolonged collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates, beginning about 80 million years ago.

Published Feb 10, 2002

Image of the Day Land