An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a long lens on the Zambezi River where it flows over Africa’s dramatic Victoria Falls. The falls were given their modern name in 1855 by the European explorer David Livingstone, who named them after Queen Victoria. Long before colonial times, however, the falls were called Mosi-oa-Tunya—Kololo/Lozi for “The Smoke that Thunders.”
In this oblique, south-looking photograph, the falls appear as a thin white line near the image center. The river valley changes dramatically at the falls. The partial reflection of the Sun off the water (sunglint) shows that the river above the falls (right half of the image) is a sheet of water up to 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) wide. In the left half of the image, the river appears as a narrow line. This is where the river flows in a zigzagging canyon that it has cut more than 100 meters (350 feet) down into the rock. The canyon walls cast dark shadows that makes the canyon look more prominent from space compared to the wide, placid waters above the falls.
Although not the highest or longest falls in the world, Victoria Falls is the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Several prior positions of the falls also appear in this space view. A photo shot during the space shuttle years shows the line of spray produced by the falls.
The Zambezi River forms the international boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The tourist towns of Livingstone and Victoria Falls stand out due to their urban grid structures and road networks.
Astronaut photograph ISS056-E-100602 was acquired on July 30, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using an 800 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 on the Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.