An astronaut onboard the International Space Station took this photograph of a portion of the northern Patagonian Andes in Chile. This nearly cloud-free view is rich with glacial fjords, complex shorelines, and active volcanoes. Melimoyu is the large, ice-capped stratovolcano northeast of the Moraleda Channel. Low-level clouds are concentrated in the Puyuhuapi Channel between the tall peaks.
During the last glacial maximum, roughly 25,000 years ago, the land and water in this photo were entirely covered by ice. As they retreated, the massive glaciers carved up the land and created interconnected fjords and channels. Today, small ice caps still sit atop active volcanoes such as Melimoyu and Mentolat, both of which are a part of Chile’s national park system.
The Moraleda Channel is a gateway between many smaller fjords and the open ocean. Rivers carry an influx of freshwater and sediment, which can promote phytoplankton growth, especially during spring and autumn. The streaks visible within the Moraleda Channel are likely a blend of sediment and plankton, based on the high concentration of chlorophyll detected that day by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, as well as previous carbon cycle studies. The waters here support an abundant diversity of marine, estuary, and freshwater species, including blue whales.
Astronaut photograph ISS062-E-113155 was acquired on March 25, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 116 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 62 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 Andrea Meado, Jacobs/JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.