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This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
This true-color image of South Africa was acquired on May 14, 2000, by
NASA's Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS. The
image was produced using a combination of the sensor's 250-m and 500-m
resolution visible wavelength bands. As part of the opening ceremony to
begin the joint U.S.-South Africa SAFARI Field Experiment, NASA
presented print copies of this image as gifts to Dr. Ben Ngubane,
Minister of Arts, Science & Technology, and Honorable Advocate Ngoaka
Ramathlodi, Premier of the Northern Province, South Africa.
The area shown in this image encompasses seven capital cities and a
number of the region's distinctive geological features can be seen
clearly. Toward the northern (top) central part of the image, the
browns and tans comprise the Kalahari Desert of southern Botswana. The
Tropic of Capricorn runs right through the heart of the Kalahari and the
Botswanan capital city of Gaborone sits on the Limpopo River, southeast
of the Kalahari.
Along the western coastline of the continent is the country of Namibia,
where the Namib Desert is framed against the sea by the Kaokoveld
Mountains. The Namibian capital of Windhoek is obscured by clouds.
Looking closely in the center of the image, the Orange River can be seen
running from east to west, demarcating the boundary between Namibia and
On the southwestern corner of the continent is the hook-like Cape of
Good Hope peninsula and Cape Town, the parliamentary capital of South
Africa. Running west to east away from Cape Town are the Great Karroo
Mountains. The shadow in this image conveys a sense of the very steep
grade of the cliffs along the southern coast of South Africa. Port
Elizabeth sits on the southeasternmost point of South Africa, and a
large phytoplankton bloom can be seen in the water about 100 miles east
Moving northward along the east coast, the Drakensberg Mountains are
visible. The two small nations of Lesotho and Swaziland are in this
region, completely contained within South Africa's boundaries. In the
upper righthand corner of the image is the Bay of Maputo, where sits
Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Fires are visible in the northeast
corner of the image, near Maputo. Just north of Maputo is where the
Limpopo River empties into the Indian Ocean. Tracing the Limpopo
inland back toward the west, this river defines the northern boundary of
South Africa with both Zimbabwe and Botswana.
Johannesburg, the commercial capital of South Africa, can be seen as the
greyish pixels in the northeastern region of the country. The country's
legislative capital, Pretoria, is about 50 miles north of Johannesburg
and 250 miles west of Maputo, in the heart of the Northern Province
(formerly known as Transvaal).
(Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Group, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)