These panoramas taken by astronauts from the International Space Station show the tropical blue waters of the Persian Gulf and then the dust-filled skies as a major dust storm obscures the Gulf and its northern shoreline. Strong north winds often blow across the region in summer, churning up dust from the entire length of the deserts in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys (top left in both images). Dust partly obscures hundreds of kilometers of light-green agricultural lands along these rivers in Iraq (left in both images).
The Caspian Sea cuts across the horizon in the upper image. In the lower image, a line of thunderstorms rises along the edge of the Zagros Mountains of Iran, and the setting sun casts long shadows from those thunderheads. Astronauts see 16 sunrises and sunsets every day from low-Earth orbit, allowing them to capture the dusk darkening a wide variety of landscapes.
Astronaut photographs ISS040-E-106243 and ISS040-E-113700 were acquired on August 25 and 31, 2014, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using 28 mm and 32 mm lenses respectively. The photos are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The images were taken by the Expedition 40 crew. They have 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 M. Justin Wilkinson, Jacobs at NASA-JSC.