The winter months in the San Francisco Bay area offer a reprieve from the typically foggy summer days that shroud the city and water beneath a layer of low clouds. On this clear December day, an astronaut onboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of the area’s mixture of dense urban development and preserved natural spaces.
The Bay Area has several famous landmarks that stand out to astronauts. The Golden Gate Bridge is part of Route 101, the longest highway in California; it connects the city of San Francisco to Marin County. The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge crosses over and tunnels through Yerba Buena Island. Both bridges stand high enough to allow large ships to pass under on the way to various docks, piers, and shipyards around the Bay.
Other islands, like Alcatraz and Angel Island, are only accessible by ferry. The entirety of Angel Island is state parkland. Alcatraz is home to the historic prison and is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. A common myth of Alcatraz is that it is surrounded by man-eating sharks. However, according to shark conservationists, only one death by shark attack has ever been recorded within San Francisco Bay.
The long, dark-toned rectangle extending inland across San Francisco from the Pacific coastline is Golden Gate Park. It spans more than 1,000 acres and contains a Japanese Tea Garden and the San Francisco Botanical Garden. The park acts as an “urban oasis” amidst the dense, well-organized, square city blocks.
Astronaut photograph ISS064-E-9385 was acquired on December 3, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 500 millimeters. It 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 64 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.