While orbiting over the Gulf of Mexico, an astronaut onboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Isla del Carmen, a barrier island on the Yucatan Peninsula. The population boomed here in the 1970s with the discovery of oil in the shallow offshore waters. Today the Mexican city is a hub for fishing and petroleum industries. The island is connected to the mainland by the Zacatal Bridge, one of the longest in Central America.
Several rivers discharge freshwater and sediment into the lagoon, and inlets on either side of the island create a circulatory water exchange. In the photo, dark, sediment-laden water flows out of Laguna de Términos, while white streaks trace the wakes of ships moving through the plume. Water flows out of the lagoon via Carmen Inlet, and the sediment mixes and disperses in the blue waters of the Bay of Campeche.
Laguna de Términos is the largest coastal lagoon in Mexico and likely along the entire Gulf Coast (including the United States). The area is home to a variety of protected flora and fauna, including bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, and mangroves, which appear as dark green shoreline vegetation in the photo. The less populated, marshy mainland to the left side is a protected area for many coastal plant and bird species.
Astronaut photograph ISS064-E-7784 was acquired on November 29, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 800 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.