Astronaut Photography

Old Havana, Cuba
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Old Havana, Cuba

he red tile roofs and historic buildings of Cuba’s Old Havana appear distinctly in this high-resolution photograph taken by astronauts on board the International Space Station.

Published Jan 5, 2003

Image of the Day Land

Plankton Blooms, Capricorn Channel
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Plankton Blooms, Capricorn Channel

This image captures a plankton bloom in the Capricorn Channel off the Queensland coast of Australia. The whispy pattern of the bloom suggests that the plankton are Trichodesmium—a photosynthetic cyanobacteria, also called “sea saw dust” that is common in the world’s oceans. Trichodesmium is frequently observed around Australia this time of year. In fact, Captain Cook’s ship logs written while he was sailing in Australian waters in the 1700s contain detailed descriptions of Trichodesmium blooms. Astronauts frequently photograph large plankton blooms during their missions because a significant portion of the ISS orbits cross long stretches of ocean. In the process, astronauts become acute observers of subtle changes in sea surface dynamics. Imagery of surface plankton blooms offer multi-dimensional (in space and time) visualizations of the unique physical and chemical circumstances that support the blooms.

Published Dec 29, 2002

Image of the Day Life Water

The Acropolis, Athens, Greece
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The Acropolis, Athens, Greece

This high-resolution photograph taken by astronauts on board the International Space Station shows details of Athens’ historic ruins. The detail panel shows actual pixels for the area of the Acropolis—some of the most distinctive features are the Parthenon, and Odeum of Herodes Atticus.

Published Dec 22, 2002

Image of the Day Land Life

Emi Koussi Volcano, Chad, North Africa
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Emi Koussi Volcano, Chad, North Africa

Emi Koussi is a high volcano that lies at the south end of the Tibesti Mountains in the central Sahara in northern Chad. The volcano is one of several in the Tibesti massif, and reaches 3415 m in altitude, rising 2.3 kilometers above the surrounding sandstone plains. The volcano is 65 kilometers wide. This view of the Emi Koussi caldera is detailed to the point that it doesn’t include the entire 10-kilometer diameter of the caldera, but reveals individual lava strata within the walls of the summit cliffs. Nested within the main caldera is a smaller crater that contains white salts of a dry lake at its lowest point. Here too, strata are visible in the walls of the smaller crater. The smaller crater is surrounded by a region of darker rocks—a geologically young dome of lava studded with several small circular volcanic vents.

Published Dec 8, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Lake Tandou, New South Wales, Australia
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Lake Tandou, New South Wales, Australia

Sections of Australia have been experiencing their worst drought in 100 years. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station documented conditions in Australia in 2002, including these images of Lake Tandou in the Menindee Lake system along the Darling River. The Menindee Lakes are part of an innovative water conservation project. This lakebed is protected from flooding and is used for agriculture—primarily cotton, sunflower and grains. It is one of several interconnected lakes that sit along the lower Darling River like a string of pearls. Other lakes function as water capture reservoirs to support controlled water flow for environmental and agricultural needs down river, and to provide flood mitigation.

Published Dec 1, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Mining and Agriculture in Kazakhstan
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Mining and Agriculture in Kazakhstan

Agricultural activities and mining occur side-by-side in the Republic of Kazakhstan. This scene is located in the Turgayskaya Oblast of central Kazakhstan, near the provincial capital of Arkalyk, where Russian spacecraft landings occur.

Published Nov 24, 2002

Image of the Day Land Life

Mt. Elbrus, Caucasus Range
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Mt. Elbrus, Caucasus Range

The Caucasus Mountains form a long (more than 1200 kilometers) and steep spine connecting the Black Sea to the Caspian. Mt. Elbrus, the summit of the Caucasus Mountains, is located in southern Russia just north of the Georgian border, and is distinguished as Europe’s highest peak (5642 m). Elbrus is also an ancient volcano, although it has not erupted for nearly 2000 years. Elbrus’s profile comprises two volcanic peaks (East and West). They are popular trekking and mountain climbing destinations—the saddle between them provides access to the region. In mid-September, the Russian and American crew aboard the International Space Station viewed Mt. Elbrus’s glaciated landscape as part of a study by Russian glaciologists. Elbrus is located west of the recent glacier slide on Mt. Kazbek, another giant peak in the Caucasus Mountains.

Published Nov 10, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Key West
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Key West

Turquoise blue waters, coral reefs and sandy beaches were apparently on the minds of International Space Station astronauts last week. As they passed over the Florida Keys, they acquired a sequence of images from Key West eastward along the outer keys. The detail of the images showcases the clarity of the Caribbean waters, and allows for mapping of both land use and shallow marine features. This image of Key West shows the intensive built-up area of the town, the offshore sand flats and grassbeds surrounding Key West, the patterns of natural tidal channels and artificially dredged channels that allow boat access to the local marinas.

Published Nov 3, 2002

Image of the Day Water

Space Shuttle view after Kolka Glacier Collapse
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Space Shuttle view after Kolka Glacier Collapse

While docked to the Space Station the international crew of Space Shuttle Mission STS-112 paused as the spacecraft sped over the Caucasus Range. They had planned before launch that a crewmember would look out the windows of the spacecraft for remnants of the disastrous collapse of Kolka Glacier. The close collaboration between the USA and Russia on all aspects of Space Station construction, and the presence on the Shuttle crew of Russian mission specialist Fyodor Yurchikhin, made the crew particularly interested in photographing the area to help scientists on the ground in their studies of the collapse. There is a dramatic difference between this digital photograph taken by the Shuttle crew and one taken just a week before the collapse by the International Space Station crew.

Published Oct 27, 2002

Image of the Day Land Snow and Ice

Sangeang Api, Indonesia
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Sangeang Api, Indonesia

In 1985, the small Indonesian island of Sangeang Api (13 kilometers wide) off the northeast coast of Sumbawa began to erupt. Within a month, the 1250 inhabitants had evacuated to Sumbawa. The eruption lasted until 1988. The lava and pyroclastic flows—the wide channel running west from the summit—are still easily traced on this image taken by Space Shuttle astronauts in 2002. Today, the island’s summit crater (1949 m) produces intermittent steam clouds.

Published Oct 20, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Astronaut Photos of Hurricane Lili
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Astronaut Photos of Hurricane Lili

On October 2, 2002, Houston’s Mission Control Center powered down and people along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana prepared for landfall of Hurricane Lili. The storm held special significance for International Space Station astronauts orbiting above 210 n. mi. above—it delayed that day’s launch of the Space Shuttle that was scheduled to bring them visitors and supplies and hardware. However, the crew gained perspective on Lili by tracking and photographing the hurricane near its peak.

Published Oct 13, 2002

Image of the Day Atmosphere Water

Easter Island
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Easter Island

On September 25, 2002, astronauts aboard the International Space Station viewed Easter Island, one of the most remote locations on Earth. Easter Island is more than 2000 miles from the closest populations on Tahiti and Chile—even more remote than astronauts orbiting at 210 nautical miles above the Earth. Archaeologists believe the island was discovered and colonized by Polynesians at about 400 AD. Subsequently, a unique culture developed. The human population grew to levels that could not be sustained by the island. A civil war resulted, and the island’s deforestation and ecosystem collapse was nearly complete.

Published Oct 6, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Mount Kazbek, Caucasus, Russia
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Mount Kazbek, Caucasus, Russia

This photograph of Mt. Kazbek was taken from the International Space Station on August 13, 2002. The astronauts and cosmonauts took the photograph at the request of the Russian URAGAN project, which is studying changes in the world’s glaciers in response to global climate change. Although scientists have predicted the possibility of large glacial collapses as the climate warms, no one predicted that tragedy would strike the mountain village of Karmadon, a little more than a month later.

Published Sep 29, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Russian Kolka Glacier Collapses
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Russian Kolka Glacier Collapses

This photograph of Mt. Kazbek was taken from the International Space Station on August 13, 2002. The astronauts and cosmonauts took the photograph at the request of the Russian URAGAN Project, which is studying changes in the world’s glaciers in response to global climate change. Although scientists have predicted the possibility of large glacial collapses as the climate warms, no one predicted that tragedy would strike the mountain village of Karmadon, a little more than a month later.

Published Sep 25, 2002

Land Unique Imagery Snow and Ice

A Star of Japan, Hakodate City
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A Star of Japan, Hakodate City

Hakodate City is a seaport located on two bays in the Oshima Peninsula near the south end of the major Japanese island of Hokkaido. This image nicely illustrates how sunglint reflecting off the ocean reveals internal waves impinging on the coast. Also, from space, Hakodate is quite distinguished from other cities of it size, featuring a large five-pointed star near it center.

Published Sep 22, 2002

Image of the Day Land Life

Kanaga Volcano, Alaska
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Kanaga Volcano, Alaska

The symmetrical cone of Kanaga volcano stands out on the northern corner of Kanaga Island, located in the central part of Alaska’s Aleutian archipelago. Kanaga last erupted in 1994 and is well known for its active fumaroles and hot springs (located, in this image, by fine steam plumes on the northeast flank of the volcano). A small lake to the southeast of the cone is situated on the floor of a larger more ancient volcanic caldera. The crew of the international space station acquired this image late in the day of August 13, 2002. Note how the late summer sun accentuates the terrain features like the volcanic flows that radiate down from the volcano’s peak, and the steep cliffs along the western coastline.

Published Sep 15, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Petroleum Infrastructure, Denver City, Texas
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Petroleum Infrastructure, Denver City, Texas

Agriculture and the petroleum industry compete for land use near Denver City, Texas, southwest of Lubbock near the New Mexico border. The economy of this region is almost completely dependent on its underground resources of petroleum and water. Both resources result in distinctive land use patterns visible from space. Historically this area has produced vast quantities of oil and gas since development began in the 1930s. Note the fine, light-colored grid of roads and pipelines connecting well sites over this portion of the Wasson Oil Field, one of the state’s most productive. Since the 1940s, agricultural land use has shifted from grazing to irrigated cultivation of cotton, sorghum, wheat, hay, and corn. The water supply is drawn from wells tapping the vast, but failing, Ogallala Aquifer. Note the large, circular center-pivot irrigation systems in the lower corners of the image. The largest is nearly a mile in diameter.

Published Sep 8, 2002

Image of the Day Land Life

Danube River flooding near Vac, Hungary
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Danube River flooding near Vac, Hungary

These images showing some of the devastating European flooding around the Danube Bend area just north of Budapest near the city of Vác, Hungary.

Published Aug 31, 2002

Image of the Day Land

Contrail Web over the Central Rhône Valley, Eastern France
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Contrail Web over the Central Rhône Valley, Eastern France

This digital photograph taken through the windows of the International Space Station on May 15, 2002, shows condensation trails over the Rhône Valley in the region west of Lyon. Condensation trails—or contrails—are straight lines of ice crystals that form in the wake of jet liners where air temperatures at altitude are lower than about 40°C. Newer contrails are thin whereas older trails have widened with time as a result of light winds. Because of this tendency for thin contrails to cover greater areas with time, it is estimated that these “artificial clouds” cover 0.1% of the planet”s surface. Percentages are far higher in some places such as southern California, the Ohio River Valley and parts of Europe, as illustrated here.

Published Aug 18, 2002

Image of the Day Atmosphere

Fernandina Island, Galapagos
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Fernandina Island, Galapagos

La Cumbre volcano on Fernandina Island is the most active volcano on the Galapagos, erupting most recently in 1995. The volcano rises 1495 m from sea level. This photo was taken by the Expedition 5 crew aboard the International Space Station. The scene provides a detailed view of the 850-m-deep summit caldera. The dark flows in the middle of the caldera floor were erupted in 1991. Today, these flows are partly covered by dark green vegetation.

Published Aug 11, 2002

Image of the Day Land

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

Image of the Day Land

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

Image of the Day Land

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