The waters around the port town of Torrevieja, Spain, appear like wells in a watercolor palette—the distinct colors resulting from varying aquatic environments. In this photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS), the blues of the Mediterranean Sea contrast with the pink and green hues of La Mata and Torrevieja salt lagoons. Sunglint further alters the appearance of all three water bodies, painting portions white with reflections of the Sun.
The larger Torrevieja Lagoon is hypersaline and gets its pink hue from salt-loving algae such as Dunaliella salina, a microorganism found in saltwater basins worldwide. The smaller neighboring lagoon, La Mata, has less salt due to freshwater runoff from nearby mountains. A salt factory is located on the southeastern margin of the Torrevieja Lagoon. These lagoons produce hundreds of tons of salt every year and have fueled much of the local economy for centuries.
Along the southern borders of the lagoons, nature preserves provide refuge to migratory and native birds, including the Greater Flamingo, Northern Gannet, and Spanish Sparrow. Brine shrimp live in the lagoons and are a food source for the birds. These preserves are Ramsar sites, which are internationally recognized conservation wetland areas.
Astronaut photograph ISS065-E-93005 was acquired on June 7, 2021, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 1150 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 65 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, and Sara Schmidt, GeoControl Systems, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.