An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of the frozen Lake Achit in western Mongolia. A dusting of snow covers much of this rugged and remote landscape. Darker forested zones appear along the floodplain of the major river in the area, the Khovd. The large dark area leading down to the frozen lake is the combined delta of two local rivers.
The area is sparsely populated, with only a few signs of settlement such as the straight lines of unpaved roads. The only village in the scene is Khovd Bag, which is almost invisible under snow cover. Very small, dark patches (best seen in the high-resolution download of the image) indicate the few settlements of local pastoralist families. These settlements are clustered along the shores of the lake and along the riverbanks.
This unspoiled, rural part of Mongolia attracts tourists via the city of Ölgii, the capital of the Bayan-Ölgii province (outside the left side of the image). The floodplain of the Khovd River is the location of the Devliin Aral (Island) National Reserve, which protects habitat for the rare ring-necked pheasant, wild boar, and beavers. The reserve and the lake shores host large flocks of migratory birds in spring and fall.
Astronaut photograph ISS066-E-137475 was acquired on February 7, 2022, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 200 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 66 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 Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.