In this photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS), white wakes mark the paths of ships passing under the Sunshine Skyway, a main thoroughfare between parts of Tampa Bay. Appearing as a large bite out of the western coastline, Tampa Bay is one of the defining features of the Florida coast when viewed from the ISS by day and by night. The different shades of color in and around the bay illustrate variations in water depth and the movement of suspended sediment.
Until 1954, travel between the various cities within the Tampa Bay area was primarily ferry-based. The original Sunshine Skyway Bridge, stretching between St. Petersburg and Palmetto, sought to connect the regions of the bay. For a time it was the longest pre-stressed bridge in the United States, according to the Tampa Bay Times. After a major ship-related accident in 1980, the bridge was dismantled and turned into piers that now appear like branches when viewed from above. The piers stand on the southwestern side of the new bridge, also named the Sunshine Skyway.
In addition to the Skyway—the tallest manmade point in Tampa—smaller bridges have been built to connect other keys that lie around the mouth of Tampa Bay. The keys are small, sandy buildups on the surface coral reefs, and they have been joined by man-made islands and piers. Florida granted a multitude of dredge and fill permits in the mid-1900s, allowing developers to dig sand from the bay and use the material to augment and adapt the existing landscape. These developments have become densely populated neighborhoods between the undeveloped—and now often protected—natural keys.
Astronaut photograph ISS064-E-26355 was acquired on January 23, 2021, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using an 800 millimeter focal length. 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 Alex Stoken, Jacobs, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.