An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a long lens on a brightly colored group of fields in the Kursk region of Russia, not far north of the Ukrainian border. Kursk lies at the heart of Russia’s “Black Belt” agricultural region, so-named for its rich black soils.
The bright fields result from the flowers of a ripening crop of rapeseed (also known as oilseed rape), a crop cultivated for its oil-rich seeds. (Brilliant rapeseed flowers have captured astronaut attention before, as in this shot of the Paris region.)
The jagged boundaries of the fields are forested stream courses that remain unplowed in order to prevent soil erosion. Two small towns stand nearby: Kotelnikovo, to the west of the fields (north is to the right), and Malye Kryuki, to the east, near a dark-toned reservoir. For a sense of scale, the yellow fields extend for nearly 8 kilometers (5 miles) from left to right in the image.
Photographs of Earth taken from the ISS with commercial, off-the-shelf digital cameras do not currently include geolocation information that can be used to precisely determine the geographic locations of features in an image. This photograph was one of the more difficult to locate by a ground-based analyst because it was taken with a long lens (which magnifies the view, but therefore shows a small area on the ground), and because the nadir point of the spacecraft was more than 300 kilometers (190 miles) to the southeast.
Astronaut photograph ISS052-E-10195 was acquired on June 28, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 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 52 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 Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University on the Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.