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The Horn of Africa, Somalia

The Horn of Africa, Somalia

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of the Horn of Africa, the easternmost portion of the continent. Raas Caseyr, historically known as Cape Guardafui, lies at the junction between the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. The coastline is rugged, with mountains, dry river beds, a small delta, and steep cliffs that cast shadows on the landscape.

This arid region is an extension of the Saharan and Arabian deserts. Strong southerly winds are common from May to October during the southwest monsoon season (when this image was taken). The winds transport sand across the cape and create a series of dunes (visible in the high-resolution download of this image). Sand is then transported into the Gulf as streamers that contrast with the darker sea surface.

Dust storms are common in the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea region and have been photographed by astronauts on other occasions, including a wind storm near the the southern Red Sea and a plume from Egypt. In May 2018, approximately one month before this image was taken, Somalia was hit by a tropical cyclone—a rare event for the region because dry desert air typically weakens storms.

Astronaut photograph ISS056-E-5470 was acquired on June 4, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 170 millimeter lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University, Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.