On August 23, 2008, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this beautiful cloud-free view of a large part of Alaska. The colors are those of a landscape captured between summer and fall. The northern slopes of the Brooks Range Mountains and the Arctic Coastal Plain are not yet dusted with snow, but the vegetation has the burnished look of autumn. The gray, bare rock of the mountain is exposed at high altitudes, while valleys and lower slopes are lined with green. (The coastal plain was noticeably greener in an image from earlier in the summer.)
A sediment plume from the Yukon River spills into Norton Sound and fades as it stretches north toward Seward Peninsula. At the top of the image, a patch of sea ice drifts across the Arctic Ocean, the brightness of the ice against the water resembling stars scattered across the darkness of space. At upper right, a dark brown burn scar still lingers on the tundra from a fire in September 2007.
NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey.