With winds that constantly whip dust across high plains, a nomadic population that mostly lives in felt tents, and a local cuisine that consists of fermented goat milk and stewed meats, Mongolia is not a place for the pampered. This true-color image of Mongolia was acquired on March 27, 2000, by the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), flying aboard NASAs Terra spacecraft. Most of the 2.3 million Mongolians live on the vast, rolling, semi-arid, grass-covered plateaus that stretch across eastern and northern Mongolia. In the image, these areas are a dark reddish-brown. The faint herringbone pattern running through eastern Mongolia is formed by the Kerulen and Orhon Gol rivers and their tributaries.
The lighter reddish-brown areas covering most of southern Mongolia is the Gobi Desert. Vast and largely uncharted, the Gobi has become a favorite of fossil hunters from around the world. Here ideal fossil specimens of Velociraptor and Protoceratops have been unearthed. (See Finding Fossils from Space for more details.) Moving to the southwest corner of the country, one can see the defined ridges that make up the sparsely vegetated Altai Mountain Range, the highest mountains in Mongolia.
A number of lakes can be spotted to the northwest and the far north. The drumstick-shaped lake at the northern tip of Mongolia is Hovsgol Nuur, which is considered a national treasure in Mongolia with its picturesque alpine surroundings and pristine water. Further north in Russia, the long lake that is half surrounded by snow is the great Lake Baykal. Reaching 1,620 meters (nearly one mile) in depth, Lake Baykal is the deepest freshwater lake in the world and holds as much fresh water as the shallower lakes Superior, Huron, Ontario, Michigan, and Erie combined.
Image courtesy MODIS Science Team