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Long, Tall Shadows

Long, Tall Shadows

As the International Space Station traveled towards the terminator, an astronaut shot this oblique photograph of a heavily clouded region near the northeastern coast of Brazil. The angle of the setting Sun accentuates the depth and texture of towering cumulonimbus clouds, which in turn cast long shadows on lower clouds and on the ground.

Known to meteorologists as cumulonimbus incus—anvil clouds—they stand out due to their vertical extent and flattened tops. Caused by extreme atmospheric instability and accompanied by thunderstorms, some anvil clouds have overshooting tops that penetrate the stratosphere. When air convection and mixing are just right, the towering cumulus congestus clouds near Earth’s limb (top center of the image) have potential to take on anvil form. With their extreme height and wide tops, the anvil clouds cast the largest shadows, some of which blend into the terminator line in this photo.

Astronaut photograph ISS060-E-71360 was acquired on September 16, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 78 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 60 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 Sara Schmidt, GeoControl Systems, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.