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Etosha Pan, Namibia

Etosha Pan, Namibia

This International Space Station image from March 26, 2009, shows Namibia’s Etosha Pan, which is a large, dry lake about 130 kilometers long. The lake dominates Namibia’s Etosha National Park (the sharp edge of the park fence can be seen at image right). Small, related dry lake beds appear as bright shapes at top left, and a portion of the International Space Station appears at image top right.

The pan is the low point in a major inland basin in northern Namibia. During major flood events, such as those experienced in the last nine months, rivers from Angola (the Namibia–Angola boundary lies just outside the top of the image) deliver large quantities of water to the pan. In this image, flood water in the Ekuma River, resulting from recent heavy rains in Angola, appears as a gray stream entering the northwest corner of the pan (image top left). The floodwater becomes a thin sheet on the vast salt flat of the pan floor. Algae blooms in the warm water have produced a light green tinge. This view shows the pan as it appeared almost ten years ago. Another astronaut image shows the Oshigambo River in flood in 2006.

Reports on the ground combined with satellite imagery acquired after this astronaut photograph indicate that the plains north of the pan are now flooded, and considerable damage to homesteads, crops, and roads has occurred. More than 340,000 people have been affected in northern Namibia and about 250,000 in southern Angola.

Astronaut photograph ISS018-E-43947 was acquired on March 26, 2009, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera fitted with an 800 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 18 crew. The image in this article has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory 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 M. Justin Wilkinson, NASA-JSC.