The answer to the June puzzler is out! No, it's not a make-up palette, stained glass, a shrimp farm, or a 5 layer beef cheese burrito. 😆 It is the Makgadikgadi Pan in Botswana! 🧩 About 2 million years ago, the Kalahari Desert in northern Botswana was home to one of the largest inland seas in the world. With no natural outflow, salts slowly accumulated in low-lying areas of the lake. 🌴 Then about 10,000 years ago, water levels began to dwindle—partly because the lake overflowed into surrounding valleys, partly because of a drier climate. As the lake dried up, a series of salt pans was left behind, spanning 30,000 kilometers squared (10,000 miles squared). Today Makgadikgadi Pan, roughly the size of Belgium, is one of the largest salt flats in the world. 🌍 In one corner of the Makgadikgadi Pan lies a network of vivid red, orange, and green rectangles. These pools are human-built ponds designed to extract salts from water. 🎨 The ponds are filled with a thin layer of brackish water from rivers draining from as far away as central Angola; the water evaporates in warm sunlight and leaves salts and minerals behind. This modern procedure is similar to the natural process that created the Makgadikgadi Pan, except on an accelerated time scale. These ponds are major producers of soda ash (sodium carbonate), which is used in making glass, in metallurgy, in the detergent industry, and in chemical manufacture. ☀️ The images above show the artificial salt ponds at different times of the year, with varying colors and brightness. The images were acquired on January 9, 2018 (first photo) and April 15, 2018 (second photo), by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. The varying colors are caused by microorganisms living in the evaporation ponds. The level of salinity determines the type of organism. Red algae indicate that the salinity of the evaporating water is medium to high. Green algae tend to grow in low salinity water. The wet season usually starts in November, and the ponds usually hold water and algae until April or May. 🔗 Read more (link in the bio): go.nasa.gov/2RLMOzn
It's time for our June puzzler! What is this image? 🧩🤔 . Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. Your challenge is to use the comments section to tell us what we are looking at and why it is interesting. 👀 You can use a few words or several paragraphs. You might simply tell us the location. Or you can dig deeper and explain what satellite and instrument produced the image, what spectral bands were used to create it, or what is compelling about some obscure feature in the image. If you think something is interesting or noteworthy, tell us about it. 🗒️ We will post the answer in about 48 hours- good luck! 🌟
Raikoke Erupts 🌋 . Unlike some of its perpetually active neighbors on the Kamchatka Peninsula, #Raikoke #Volcano on the Kuril Islands rarely erupts. The small, oval-shaped island most recently exploded in 1924 and in 1778. 🗻 The dormant period ended around 4:00 a.m. local time on June 22, 2019, when a vast #plume of ash and volcanic gases shot up from its 700-meter-wide crater. Several satellites—as well as astronauts on the #InternationalSpaceStation—observed as a thick plume rose and then streamed east as it was pulled into the circulation of a storm in the North Pacific. 👨🚀 On the morning of June 22, #astronauts shot a photograph (above) of the #volcanicplume rising in a narrow column and then spreading out in a part of the plume known as the umbrella region. That is the area where the density of the plume and the surrounding air equalize and the plume stops rising. The ring of clouds at the base of the column appears to be water vapor. ☁️ “What a spectacular image,” said Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech. “The ring of white puffy clouds at the base of the column might be a sign of ambient air being drawn into the column and the condensation of water vapor. Or it could be a rising plume from interaction between magma and seawater because Raikoke is a small island and flows likely entered the water.” 🏞️ After an initial surge of activity that included several distinct explosive pulses, activity subsided and strong winds spread the ash across the Pacific. By the next day, just a faint remnant of the ash remained visible to a NASA satellite instrument. 🛰️ Since ash contains sharp fragments of rock and volcanic glass, it poses a serious hazard to aircraft. The Tokyo and Anchorage Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers have been tracking the plume closely and have issued several notes to aviators indicating that ash had reached an altitude of 13 kilometers (8 miles). Meanwhile, data from the CALIPSO satellite indicate that parts of the plume may have reached 17 kilometers (10 miles). ✈️ See more imagery (link in bio): go.nasa.gov/2ZRwCiV
Wispy clouds before the storm ☁️ On any given day, roughly 67 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by clouds, and most of them are familiar, average, and unremarkable. But on some days, in some places, cloud patterns stand out starkly from their surroundings. 🌫️ June 5, 2019, was such a day along the coast of Western Australia. In this image acquired by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite, an area of dense white cloud cover gives way to some striking geometry: wispy ice clouds lining up in parallel high in the atmosphere. 🌬️ According to Bastiaan Van Diedenhoven, a researcher for Columbia University and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the clouds are known as transverse cirrus bands. “They are not rare, but also not very common,” he said. 🌦️ They may look benign, but transverse cirrus bands (TCBs) are often associated with intense weather on the edge of a storm or a front. When this image was acquired, a strong cold front was moving inland from the Indian Ocean. The system ultimately brought high winds and heavy rain to Western Australia, including 88.2 millimeters (3.5 inches) at the town of Margaret River, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. ☔ In general, transverse cirrus bands occur at the edge of large thunderstorm systems, or perpendicular to a jet stream, or even along the perimeter of cyclones. Exactly why they form is unclear. The same physical conditions, however, frequently give rise to clear air turbulence, which can be hazardous to aircraft. Given that, the presence of transverse cirrus bands is a clue to aviation forecasters that difficult-to-detect turbulence could be nearby. ⛈️ Read more (link in the bio): go.nasa.gov/2Ix5vE1
A witch’s cauldron. 🧙 Gastrointestinal reflux. 🤢A kale smoothie. 🥬 The eerie, green swirls of this satellite image may conjure up many mental pictures—except what it actually is. On April 12, 2019, the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 acquired this image of Lake Khanka. 💧 This shallow freshwater lake is located on the border of Russia and northeastern China. The green hues in the water are most likely chlorophyll-rich phytoplankton in the lake, which contains a fairly constant presence of diatoms. The phytoplankton and other suspended solids in the lake are easily mixed by wind. This mixing of material between the surface and bottom often clouds the water, which usually starts to lose clarity in less than a meter. 🦠 The microscopic particles and organisms can be seen in great detail due to a special editing technique that combines scientific expertise and an artistic touch. Like a photographer adjusting lighting and using filters, Norman Kuring of NASA’s Ocean Biology group works with various software programs and color-filtering techniques to draw out the fine details in the water. The swirls in the water are all quite real; Kuring simply separates and enhances certain shades and tones in the data to make the biomass more visible. 👨🎨 As one of the largest freshwater lakes (by area) in Far Eastern Russia and China, Lake Khanka (known as Lake Xingkai in Chinese) plays an important role in supporting biodiversity. It is a major source of freshwater for birds (particularly waterfowl) and home to some of the highest levels of bird diversity in Eurasia. Khanka is also home to many freshwater species of fish and aquatic animals, including a large population of rare Chinese soft-shelled turtles. 🐢 The lake is surrounded by open lowlands, wetlands, grassy meadows, and swamps, which also contain many rare and endangered plants. The lake has been designated as a Ramsar Convention Wetland Site, promoting conservation and sustainable use of the wetlands. The lake is also included on UNESCO’s “World Biosphere Reserves” list. 📃 Read more (link in the bio): https://go.nasa.gov/2MGcizi
Forecasting D-Day 🌦️ It was the raw courage of the more than 160,000 Allied troops who stormed an 80-kilometer (50-mile) stretch of heavily fortified beaches in Normandy, France, that made victory on D-Day possible. But without the sound advice of meteorologists and geologists working behind the scenes, one of the most consequential battles in human history could have gone quite differently. 👩🔬 As D-Day neared, the American meteorologists predicted fair weather on June 5 and pushed for invasion, based on a forecasting method that gave great weight to historical weather conditions for a given date and location. 🗓️ The British forecasters took a different approach, focusing instead on analyzing measurements of temperature, pressure, and humidity to try to map out weather fronts. Unlike the Americans, the British teams predicted low clouds and stormy weather on June 5. At the last minute, Captain James Martin Stagg, the highest ranking of the meteorologists, convinced Eisenhower to postpone the invasion. 🕰️ Meanwhile, on the other side of the English Channel, German meteorologists had come to the same conclusion—and then some. Their forecasters had predicted that gale-force winds would arrive on June 5 and persist until mid-June. The Germans were so confident that the Allies would not dare attack that they allowed many soldiers to leave their posts on the beaches and take part in war games in Rennes, France. 🧩 When the first paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines around midnight and the first wave of Allied boats began to swarm the beaches at dawn on June 6, the weather was still far from ideal. Cloud cover meant many paratroopers ended up in the wrong locations, and rough seas and high winds made the task of landing boats and unloading tanks a terrible challenge. But by noon the skies cleared, just as the Allied meteorologists had predicted. The Germans, meanwhile, had been caught off guard. That day the Allies endured thousands of causalities, but they established a toehold in France that they would never give up. 🏆 Read the full story (link in bio): go.nasa.gov/2I0bIYP
Dust Storm in Hokkaido 🛰️ When satellites observe large dust plumes over Japan, the dust typically comes from vast deserts in Central Asia and arrives on westerly winds. However, on May 20, 2019, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite acquired an image of a different type of dust event—a plume streaming from farmland near Shari and Kiyosato in northern Hokkaido. 🗾 Unusually dry weather in April and May 2019 likely dried out the land surface and made it easier for strong southerly winds to lift so much dust. In the nearby town of Betsukai, the Japan Meteorological Agency recorded maximum instantaneous wind speeds within 10 minute periods of 59 kilometers (37 miles) per hour on May 20, noted Teppei J. Yasunari, an atmospheric scientist with Hokkaido University’s Arctic Research Center. Dust storms typically can occur if winds exceed 40 kilometers per hour. The seasonal rhythms of farming likely contributed as well. 💨 Landsat satellite imagery suggests that many fields in the area had little green vegetation or may have been tilled recently, both of which would make it easier for gusty winds to pick up dust. 🍃 Scientists who routinely monitor global dust storm activity say it is unusual for Japan to produce such a large dust plume. Though on average there are 20 teragrams (44 billion tons) of dust in the air at any one time, most of it comes from large deserts in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. 🔬
May puzzler revealed! 🧩👌 No, it's not your grandma's hair or a bowl of spaghetti- they are alluvial fans in southern Mongolia! 🏞️ In southern Mongolia, a series of narrow ranges—the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains and the Tost Mountains—run roughly parallel to the China-Mongolia border. A network of ephemeral streams wind their way through the rocky ranges wherever the terrain allows. 💨 After heavy rainfall, floodwaters rush through narrow stream channels deep inside the ranges. Soon enough, a transition to flatter terrain allows floodwater to spread out into a series of braided streams with interwoven channels. 💧 On August 17, 2014, the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image of some of these interlocking stream channels just south of the Tost Mountains. This sparsely populated region is known for its relatively large population of endangered snow leopards. 🐆 As the streams pass beyond the mountains, water slows down considerably as the channels widen. As it does, gravel, sand, and clay (alluvium) gets dropped into sandbars. Over time, the channels and sandbars migrate back and forth to create triangular deposits known as alluvial fans. 🔺 In the case shown above, several closely spaced alluvial fans have coalesced into a larger feature known as a bajada. (Spanish for “descent”.) Bajadas typically form in areas where descending streams flow down the lower slopes of mountains, usually in areas with slopes of 7 degrees or less. ⛰️ Read more (link also in bio): go.nasa.gov/30TASzG
It's time for our May puzzler! 🧩🤔 What is this a satellite image of? . Your challenge is to use the comments section to tell us what we are looking at and why it is interesting. The answer will be revealed here later this week.
Bering Streets 🌬️ Winds from the northeast pushed sea ice southward and formed cloud streets—parallel rows of clouds—over the Bering Strait in January 2010. The easternmost reaches of Russia, blanketed in snow and ice, appear in the upper left. To the east, sea ice spans the Bering Strait. Along the southern edge of the ice, wavy tendrils of newly formed, thin sea ice predominate. ❄️ The cloud streets run in the direction of the northerly wind that helps form them. When wind blows out from a cold surface like sea ice over the warmer, moister air near the open ocean, cylinders of spinning air may develop. Clouds form along the upward cycle in the cylinders, where air is rising, and skies remain clear along the downward cycle, where air is falling. The cloud streets run toward the southwest in this image from the Terra satellite. 🛰️ This image is one of the featured satellite images in our new book called "Earth." Check out more beautiful imagery from the book by clicking the link in the bio. 🔗
What a Grand Canyon! 👀 On a bright winter’s day, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a camera on the Grand Canyon and surrounding snowy landscapes in northern Arizona, many of which are federally protected lands. The Grand Canyon was declared a national park 100 years ago on February 26, 1919. 👨🚀 The photograph shows the ragged, steep-sided canyon walls and its numerous side canyons that contrast with the flat surrounding plains. From viewpoints on the South Rim, the thin line of the Colorado River lies more than 1525 meters (5,000 feet) below. 🏞️ The Grand Canyon is one of the best-known natural wonders on Earth, but astronauts see very different patterns compared with the iconic ground-based views. Astronauts quickly learn that different land surface colors frequently indicate high and low parts of the scenery below them. In this photo, bright snow indicates high, cold plateaus, such as those within several Native American Indian reservations and the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Snow that fell at warmer, lower elevations—inside the Grand Canyon or in the parts of the nearby desert—melted quickly or did not reach the ground. 🌨️ Dense greens are another feature that help astronauts understand the landscapes they see from space. In the desert southwest of North America, higher elevations get more rain and snow. Thus the high Kaibab Plateau is wet enough for forests to thrive, while the main colors of the low country are browns and tans of rocks and desert soils. 🏜️ Astronauts also get some sense of topography from shadows and sunlight. This image was taken from an orbital vantage point over Las Vegas, nearly 400 kilometers (240 miles) to the west. The view is oblique enough to give a slightly three-dimensional view, especially from shadows like those cast by the Grand Canyon cliffs and the narrow canyons around the Colorado River.
Historic Floods Inundate Nebraska 🌊 In the wake of an intense winter storm, historic floods have broken out across the central United States. By mid-March, several streams and rivers had risen to all-time record levels in Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. . Nebraska has been particularly hard hit. On March 16, 2019, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured a false-color image that underscores the extent of the flooding on the Platte, Missouri, and Elkhorn Rivers. For comparison, the other image shows the same area in March 2018. . Several communities west of Omaha (between the Elkhorn and Platte Rivers) either flooded or temporarily became islands as floodwaters encroached from both sides. One third of Offutt Air Force Base was inundated and 30 buildings were damaged, according to news reports. Rising flood waters forced people in dozens of communities to evacuate. . A rare confluence of circumstances produced the flooding. Extreme cold earlier in the winter set the stage by preserving a significant amount of snow; it also created a thick layer of ice on waterways and made the ground less permeable than usual. When an intense storm brought downpours and unusually warm air to the region in March, it rapidly melted much of the snow and ice, producing enormous runoff in a short period. As river ice broke up, large chunks compounded the problem by slamming into dams, raking against levees and other infrastructure, and packing together to jam waterways even more. . More information at link in the bio.
Jupiter or Earth? 🤔 It’s reasonable to think that Jupiter—a gaseous planet more than 11 times the diameter of Earth—would have little in common with our home. But it turns out that the motion of fluids on both planets is governed by the same laws of physics. An eddy on Earth looks a lot like an eddy on Jupiter. 🌀 The similarities are especially evident in these images showing swirls in Jupiter’s atmosphere and in Earth’s Baltic Sea. “This is all about fluids moving around on a rotating body,” said Norman Kuring of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. 🌊 Kuring described the patterns of flow as a combination of laminar (following a smooth path) and turbulent (uneven and chaotic). Flows can be characterized using numbers named for famous physicists, such as Reynolds, Rossby, and Rayleigh. But you don’t need a textbook knowledge of fluid dynamics to appreciate its consequences. 〰️ “Out of all the complexity flows beauty, whether it be images of Earth, Jupiter, or your coffee cup when you pour in the cream,” Kuring said. ☕ Scientists think Jupiter has three distinct cloud layers. The left image shows ammonia-rich clouds swirling in the planet’s outermost layer. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created the image using data acquired by the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft in December 2018. They applied a series of image processing steps to highlight details that would be difficult for the human eye to discern. 🛰️ The patterns in Jupiter’s atmosphere appear similar to those in Earth’s oceans. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8acquired the second image on July 18, 2018. This natural-color image shows a green phytoplankton bloom tracing the edges of a vortex in the Baltic Sea. In this medium—Earth’s ocean—turbulent processes are important for moving heat, carbon, and nutrients around the planet. Models that accurately represent these processes are critical for understanding weather in the air and sea. ☁️ Full story link in the bio.
A bit of red-brown earth in the Amazon forest🌏🌳 . If you were to stand in the middle of the mines of Brazil’s Carajás Mountains (Serra dos Carajás), the dusty red terrain could be mistaken for a Martian landscape. Yet in this image, indicators of human presence are everywhere. Excavator trucks dig in the deep pits, while off-road trucks move hundreds of tons of ore along dirt roads. This is among the world’s largest iron ore mining operations. . Viewed from space, you get a sense of how the Carajás mines fit into the wider landscape of the Amazon forest. In a scene acquired by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 on July 16, 2018, the red-brown earth contrasts starkly with the greens of the surrounding Carajás National Forest. . The detailed image shows the largest of these mines, the Serra Norte complex. The terraced appearance is a result of the open pit mining method, in which layers are excavated one at a time. Nine iron ore deposits exist along the Serra Norte (Northern Range). According to a 2013 study, mining at four of Serra Norte’s main pits had produced 1.2 billion tons of high-grade iron ore. . Most of the metallic mineral deposits among the ridges and plateaus of the Carajás Mountains and elsewhere in the Amazon are found in areas of rock that date back to the earliest part of Earth’s history. From the time that Earth’s surface solidified to about 570 million years ago, in the Precambrian, metals could more easily rise from deep in the planet and close to the surface. In addition to iron ore, the region is also rich in manganese, copper, tin, aluminum, and gold. . Scientists have been working to better assess how mining affects deforestation of the Amazon—the world’s largest remaining tropical forest—as mineral production has increasing value to the Brazil’s economy.
This isn't a Van Gogh 🎨 but a satellite image of the Baltic Sea! 🌊 Cyanobacteria are an ancient type of marine bacteria that, like other phytoplankton, capture and store solar energy through photosynthesis. Some cyanobacteria are toxic to humans and animals. Moreover, large blooms can sometimes cause oxygen-depleted dead zones where other organisms cannot survive. ☀️ In August 2015, Landsat 8 captured this false-color view of a large bloom of cyanobacteria swirling in the Baltic Sea. Blooms flourish here during summertime, when there is ample sunlight and high levels of nutrients. Tracks of several ships show up as dark lines where they have cut through the bloom. ⛵ Agricultural and industrial runoff from Europe can contribute to excess nutrients in the Baltic Sea. Nutrient loads have been decreasing since 1980, and coastal areas have seen improvement, yet concentrations in the open sea have not changed much. 🌊 This image is one of the featured satellite images in our new book called "Earth." Check out more beautiful imagery by clicking the link in the bio.
What beautiful waters! 😍 Near the border of Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand, more than 800 islands rise amid extensive coral reefs in the Andaman Sea. This is the Mergui Archipelago. 🗾 Captain Thomas Forrest of the East India Company first reported on the region to Europeans after a 1782 expedition, describing islands inhabited by a nomadic fishing culture. These people, known as the Moken, still call the archipelago home and mostly live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The small population of the archipelago has helped preserve its high diversity of plants and animals, making it a compelling travel spot for ecotourism—both above and below the water line. 🏝️ In this view of Auckland Bay and Whale Bay, white swirling patterns in the near-shore waters are sediments that are carried out by rivers and deposited on the seafloor. 🌊 This natural-color image was acquired by Landsat 5 on December 14, 2004. This image is one of the featured satellite images in our new book called "Earth." Check out more beautiful imagery from the book by clicking the link in the bio.
Love is in the Air ♥️ When swirls of clouds formed over the South Pacific Ocean, we couldn’t help but notice their heart-like shape. But fluid dynamics has a solid explanation for this Valentine in the sky. ☁️ . The pattern is known as a von Kármán vortex, and the phenomenon occurs in a wide range of places around the planet. It forms when the flow of a fluid is diverted around a blunt object, imparting rotation in alternating directions along the object’s lee side. In this instance, the vortices were produced as winds were diverted around the Juan Fernández Islands, 670 kilometers (420 miles) off the coast of Chile. .🌬️ Von Kármán vortices can form whenever there is strong air flow around a barrier, but they need clouds or smoke to become obvious to the human eye. On February 2, 2019, the rotating air produced swirls in a layer of marine stratocumulus. The disturbance that trailed behind the islands was visible in these images acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. .🌀 Read more about this celestial Valentine ❣️ go.nasa.gov/2TPlxMG (Link in bio)
Time Traveling ⏳ to the Triassic 🦖 . Two hundred million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the land that is now northwest Argentina. Today, those prehistoric reptiles linger as some of the world’s oldest and most pristine fossils—spanning 50 million years from when dinosaurs first appeared to when they rose to dominance in the Triassic era. 🦕 . The images show two notable dinosaur habitats, the Talampaya and Ischigualasto Natural Parks, located near the Argentina-Chile border. The images were acquired by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) by Landsat 8 on August 25, 2018. Together, the parks cover more than 275,000 hectares (1,060 square miles). 🏞️ . Like a South American version of Monument Valley in the United States, Talampaya Park is known for its 200-meter (660 feet) high red sandstone cliffs and 1,500-year-old rock carvings. The first image shows a close-up view of the park in La Rioja province, where the aptly named herbivorous dinosaur Riojasaurus was discovered. 👀 . Talampaya stands in stark contrast to the white and multicolor sediments of the Ischigualasto Provincial Park to the south, seen in the second image. Ischigualasto is often called the Valle de la Luna (“Valley of the Moon”) because its unique and rugged terrain give an otherworldly appearance. 🌚 . The two parks encompass Ischigualasto-Villa Unión sedimentary basin, which contains the most complete fossil record from the Triassic period (245-208 million years ago). The basin includes six sedimentary rock formations with fossilized remains, documenting Earth’s history from the appearance of the first mammals and dinosaurs to when dinosaurs dominated.🌎 . Find out what fossils archeologists found: go.nasa.gov/2t8rY1G (Link in bio)
Before and After Scenes of a Dam Collapse . On January 25, 2019, a retaining wall abruptly failed along the edge of a pond of mud-like waste material from a Brazilian mine. The collapse at the Córrego do Feijão mine in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais released a torrent of tailings that quickly flattened buildings, overwhelmed a bus, and swamped nearby houses. Tailings rushed through the mine, the nearby town of Brumadinho, and the Paraopeba River, a key source of drinking and irrigation water for people in the area. More than 100 people have died and hundreds of people are missing, according to multiple news reports. . The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired an image (second image) of the tailings dam flood on January 30, 2019. The mine waste water appears brown. The first image shows the same area on January 14, 2019. . The dam had held back more than 15 million cubic yards (11.7 million cubic meters) of waste material, according to the company that operates the mine. After the failure, the mud deposits downstream were as thick as 5 meters (16 feet) in some places. . While tailings ponds are routinely contaminated with toxic heavy metals, it is not clear whether the material in this particular pond was toxic. The company says the tailings were mostly sand. The Brazilian government and environmental groups are in the process of conducting water quality tests. . Read more: go.nasa.gov/2GbstAy
All You on the Good Earth 🌏 👏 These iconic photos are not new, but their message never gets old. Fifty years ago on December 24, three men traveled farther from home than any explorer had ever wandered. And like any travelers, their thoughts occasionally wandered back to their precious home.🏠 . The color photograph (first photo), shot on December 24, 1968 by William Anders, is presented here in the manner in which he saw his home planet rising before him—in the vertical plane. On the Earth, the sunset terminator crosses Africa, and Antarctica is the white area near the left end of the terminator. North and South America are under clouds.☁️ . Shortly before he took the unplanned photo, Anders exclaimed: “Oh my God, look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth comin’ up. Wow, is that pretty!” 😮 . The black-and-white photograph (third photo) shows the Earth rising over a horizontal surface on the same day, as the Apollo 8 crew orbited the Moon. The spacecraft was near 110 degrees east lunar longitude, with the horizon stretching about 570 kilometers (250 miles) ahead.🌙 . While orbiting the Moon on Christmas Eve 1968, the astronauts broadcast directly to the people on Earth; it was the largest television audience in history (to that point), estimated at half a billion people. The three former pilots gave some impressions from the greatest test flight of their lives.🚀 . Hear their message: https://go.nasa.gov/2BjO4Tt (link in the bio)
A Spacecraft's 🛰️ Journey to the Space Station! 🌌 . On December 5, 2018, NASA launched 🚀a 6,000-pound care package 📦 to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The spacecraft orbited Earth 🌎 until it reached the station three days later. As the oversized parcel headed toward the orbiting laboratory, it traveled over beautiful Earth landscapes—from scenic snowscapes 🏔️ to desolate deserts🏜️. . These images, taken by astronaut Alex Gerst 👨🚀, show the Dragon capsule orbiting Earth on December 8, 2018. . The first image shows the spacecraft passing over the remote and pristine Ukok Plateau, located in the Altai Mountains of southwestern Siberia, Russia. Four countries come together in this region: Russia, Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia. The plateau, which is a UNSECO World Heritage Site, is home to the endangered snow leopard ❄️🐆. . The second image shows the capsule passing over Manifa, Saudi Arabia, which is home to one of the world’s biggest oil fields. The emerald waters also house more than 85 species of fish 🐟🐠🐡 and 50 species of coral. . The third image shows the SpaceX vehicle over the Emi Koussi volcano 🌋 in northern Chad (upper left of the photo). The volcano is the highest summit of the Sahara, standing at 3,414 meters (2 miles) above sea level. Its dark volcanic rocks stand out against the surrounding tan and light brown sandstone to the south and east. . What happens to the spacecraft after it reaches the Space Station? 🤔⁉️ Find out: https://go.nasa.gov/2Rdme4a
Did you know Earth 🌎 loses several hundred tons of its atmosphere to space 🌌 every day? . In particular, oxygen escapes when it harnesses enough energy from the energetic collisions that produce the northern lights. . Scientists have a good understanding of this atmospheric escape on the night side of Earth, where, atmospheric losses tend to happen in high-energy bursts. But losses also happen during the aurora on Earth’s day side, and scientists want to know the locations and strength of these fountains of gas shooting out of Earth’s atmosphere. No two outflow events are exactly the same. . To get a detailed look, researchers with the Visualizing Ion Outflow via Neutral Atom Sensing-2 (VISIONS-2) mission loaded cameras and instruments on a pair of sounding rockets. These small rockets can make targeted flights to space and then fall back to Earth—a good way to map the oxygen outflow during a potentially short-lived aurora. The researchers staged the rockets in the town of Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard (Norway), and waited for the aurora. On December 7, 2018, they pounced. . The first photograph, shot by Allison Stancil-Ervin of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, is a long exposure showing both rockets as they launched at 12:06 p.m. and 12:08 p.m. local time (11:06 and 11:08 Universal Time) on December 7. Although this is the day side of the planet, there is no daylight at this time of year in Ny-Ålesund. At the time of launch, it was nautical twilight—named for the level of light that makes it possible to discern the horizon and navigate at sea. . The second photograph, shot by Ahmed Ghalib of the VISIONS-2 payload team, shows the aurora in Ny-Ålesund in late November 2018. . A better understanding of atmospheric losses on Earth could inform our understanding of other planets; that is, how some became desolate and which ones might be habitable. Until then, scientists can assure you that Earth won’t soon run out of oxygen. Even at the current rates of loss, Earth’s atmosphere should stick around for billions of years. . Read more: https://go.nasa.gov/2R5xRKm
An Island Disappears 👀 It’s not often that an island disappears off the map, but that’s just what happened in October 2018. A remote but ecologically important island was lost to the sea in the wake of one of the most intense hurricanes on record for the North Pacific. . Around October 3, Hurricane Walaka passed the Hawaiian Islands, including an archipelago about 900 kilometers (550 miles) northwest of Honolulu known as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Strong surges from Walaka inundated the shallow islets, one of which has been almost completely reclaimed by the ocean. . The Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 captured these natural-color images of East Island on September 11 and October 13, 2018. The storm washed away the 11-acre strip of sand and gravel, and only two slivers of land have re-emerged since the hurricane struck. Storm surges also deposited sand and debris across Tern Island, which is northwest of East Island. . East Island is part of the French Frigate Shoals, one of the most significant coral reef systems in Papahānaumokuākea. The archipelago formed millions of years ago when a deep-sea “hotspot” created underwater volcanoes, which eventually rose to the ocean’s surface to became islands. While East Island was uninhabited by people, it provided nesting grounds for the threatened Hawaiian green sea turtles and pupping grounds for endangered monk seals, of which there are only 1,400 in the world. . Scientists believe many of the animals had already left the island before the hurricane hit because it was the end of turtle and seal breeding season. However, unhatched turtle nests were likely affected. . East Island is not the first island to disappear from the French Frigate Shoals. Whale-Skate Islet was lost to erosion in the 1990s, while Trig Island eroded earlier in 2018—a common occurrence in sand-dominated ecosystems. Scientists believe the mammals adapted to the ecosystem changes at Whale-Skate and Trig by finding new breeding locations, so they expect the same to happen now that East Island is gone. . Read more: https://go.nasa.gov/2Epqvf4
Volcanic Plateaus in Argentina 🌋 The Patagonian Andes are a continental landmark easily visible from space. But areas to the east of the volcanic mountain chain have their own geologic intrigue, as shown in these images of prehistoric lava fields in northern Patagonia. . This image was acquired on August 20, 2018, with the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. It shows an area about 50 kilometers southeast of Paso de Indios, in Argentina’s Chubut Province. . The climate here is complex. The Andes receive plenty of precipitation in winter months, as humid winds blow east from the Pacific Ocean, hit the mountains, and drop their moisture. That leaves little moisture for areas to the east, which see less than 200 millimeters (8 inches) of rain in an entire year. As a result, the desert landscape in these images appears to lack green vegetation. . Other colors, however, make up for the absence of greenery. According to Johan Varekamp of Wesleyan University, the darkest colors are volcanic rocks from the Oligocene-Miocene, or about 25-30 million years old. The rocks are part of a lava plateau known as the Meseta de Canquel. (Meseta is a Spanish word meaning “plateau.”) Lava plateaus in this area historically were much more extensive, but erosion has removed large sections of rock from their edges. Some of the plateau edges display a rumpled appearance, produced by successive slumps and debris falls. . This image shows an area where erosion has isolated a segment of the plateau, creating an island mountain or “inselberg.” Debris from the black lava fills the stream valleys and gives the mountain “a spider-like appearance, with black tentacles spreading around it,” Varenkamp said. He notes that the red and yellow rocks are much older; they contain iron and have been oxidized, “giving it the wild colors.” . Read more: https://go.nasa.gov/2P2ilKd
The Smoking Terror 🌋 An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of Momotombo Volcano in western Nicaragua. This active stratovolcano was once described as “the smoking terror” in a 1902 stereograph set. . In 1898, Lieutenant Walker of the U.S. Navy surveyed Nicaragua for a potential canal route. As Walker traversed the area near Momotombo, he described the volcano as a lofty, sulfur-stained peak emitting large volumes of vapor from the summit. The plume in this July 2018 image may be similar to the vapor described by Walker. Seven years after Walker’s survey (1905), Momotombo erupted. More than 100 years later, a new eruptive phase began in 2015. . A channel runs down the eastern flank of the volcano, where lava has reached low-lying surroundings. This channel existed before the 2015 eruption, so it gave the most recent lava flow an easy path down from the crater. Lava levees appear on either side of the channel as dark rock. A geothermal field surrounds Momotombo, and it has been used to produce renewable energy since 1983. Hot fumaroles—openings at Earth’s surface where volcanic gas or steam is emitted—are found around Momotombo. The presence of fumaroles indicates that magma is near the surface, creating the hot conditions for geothermal energy to be harnessed. . Read more about its location in the Ring of Fire: https://go.nasa.gov/2QvIeqD
Icy Art ❄️ . North of mainland Siberia, a set of islands protrude from the Arctic Ocean. Spanning 30,000 square kilometers, the New Siberian Islands are bisected by the Sannikov Strait, which connects the Laptev Sea (west) with the East Siberian Sea (east). For most of the year, the strait is choked with ice. These images, all acquired with the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8, show the frozen sea water in June as the summer melt season is underway. The first two images show sea ice on the western side of the strait in 2016 and 2018, respectively. The third image is from the eastern side and was acquired in 2013. . The Sannikov Strait is part of the Northeast Passage that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. As the world warms and the extent of Arctic sea ice continues to shrink, the route is expected to become increasingly viable for transit shipping for longer periods. In September 2018, an icebreaker escorted the Venta Maersk through the 50-kilometer-wide strait during a voyage between Busan, South Korea, and St. Petersburg to determine the route’s feasibility. . The passage is currently passable for just a few months of the year. When these images were acquired, it was still early enough in the season for ample ice to persist. Winds, currents, and melting had broken up the ice in places. Black areas are open water. Differences in ice thickness are likely responsible for the variety of color, from gray to blue, imparting the delicate appearance similar to stained glass. . Read the full story: https://go.nasa.gov/2S8CD6R
Wow, that is a fast-moving fire! Stay safe 👩🚒🚒 . On November 8, 2018, the Camp Fire erupted 90 miles (140 kilometers) north of Sacramento, California around 6:29am Pacific Standard Time. By 8:00pm, the fire had charred around 20,000 acres and remained zero percent contained. . The Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 acquired this image on November 8, 2018, around 10:45 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (06:45 Universal Time). The natural-color image was created using bands 4-3-2, along with shortwave infrared light to highlight the active fire. . Officials are evacuating several towns, including Paradise. They have also closed several major highways. . Read more about the blaze: https://go.nasa.gov/2T05Yl1
Old blackwater, keep on rollin' 🎶 The Suwannee is known as a “blackwater river” because of its dark-brown waters laden with organic material. Unlike other blackwater rivers, the Suwannee maintains its inky color along its entire 400-kilometer (250-mile) journey to the sea. Here, a satellite image offers inky evidence of the organic-rich freshwater that the Suwannee River delivered to the Gulf of Mexico. . You can find the headwaters of the Suwannee River in a dense swampland in Georgia, just north of the Florida border. When the river finally meets the Gulf of Mexico along Florida’s Big Bend—that portion of coast where the state’s panhandle curves to meet its peninsula—its dark waters act like a tracer, revealing whereby the river water mixes with the sea. That mixing was on display on February 20, 2015, when the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 captured this view. Certain colors in the visible-light image have been have been enhanced to bring out the details in the Gulf of Mexico. . Read more about the ecology near the river: https://go.nasa.gov/2SWzEiW
A Halloween Special: Where is this coffin-shaped iceberg headed? This could be a scene out of a spooky movie. But reality is just as morbid for this coffin-shaped iceberg. After 18 years at sea, B-15T has entered a region where Antarctic icebergs go to die. . On September 23, 2018, when an astronaut on the International Space Station shot this photograph, iceberg B-15T had already left the Southern Ocean. It was spotted in the South Atlantic between South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The second image shows a wide view, acquired the same day by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Icebergs like this are known to melt rapidly as they make their way north into warmer waters. . The spooky shape of B-15T was acquired long before it moved into this iceberg #graveyard. For more than a decade, B-15 had numerous collisions—smashing back into the Ross Ice Shelf where it originated, hitting bedrock along the coast, and bumping into other tabular icebergs. . Read about the ice coffin's long journey to iceberg graveyard: https://go.nasa.gov/2DfGf3o #happyhalloween #coffins #iceberg #spaceimage
Earth Awash in Lights of the Night As nighttime arrives, previously obscured light sources begin to dazzle the eye. City lights sprawl across Earth’s surface. A constant glow hovers in the upper atmosphere. Beyond Earth, starlight fills in the darkness of the cosmos. . From the vantage point of space, we can get a unique view of each of these nighttime spectacles. On October 7, 2018, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph while orbiting at an altitude of more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) over Australia. In this view, stars appear more numerous along the image center, where the plane of our disk-shaped Milky Way galaxy extends into space. . The oranges (above) and greens enveloping Earth are known as airglow—diffuse bands of light that stretch 50 to 400 miles into our atmosphere. The phenomenon typically occurs when molecules (mostly nitrogen and oxygen) are energized by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. To release that energy, atoms in the lower atmosphere bump into each other and lose energy in the collision. But the upper atmosphere is thinner, so atoms are less likely to collide. Instead they release their energy by emitting photons. The result is colorful airglow. . Some airglow, however, can be caused by collisions. This type of airglow is known as chemiluminescence or “nightglow.” The brightest green light in the first few seconds of the time-lapse video is due to oxygen atoms that have recombined into oxygen molecules. Yellow colors are caused by emissions from a sodium layer. . More than just a pretty light show, airglow reveals some of the workings of the upper reaches of our atmosphere. It can help scientists learn about the movement of particles near the interface of Earth and space, including the connections between space weather and Earth weather. . Read more: https://go.nasa.gov/2OJnVG3
The Geologic Wonder of the Neuquén Basin As the Neuquén River winds its way from the Andes through west-central Argentina toward the Atlantic Ocean, it passes a spectacular series of rock formations in the Neuquén Basin. For paleontologists, the basin is a great place to find fossils, particularly dinosaurs. And for those in the oil business, it is fertile ground for gas and oil exploration. . The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired an image showing part of the basin on September 3, 2018. . From space, boundaries between some of the major groups of sedimentary rock formations are visible. In the first image, the deep reds of the Candeleros Formation—a sequence of sandstones formed roughly 90 to 100 million years ago in a braided river system—dominate the landscape. These rocks are flanked in some areas, especially near the river, by a green-yellow sequence of rocks that are part of the younger Hunical Formation, formed during drier times. The older Royosa Formation, meanwhile, peeks through in some areas where erosion has scraped away overlying rock layers. (See the second image.) . Paleontologists have uncovered quite a menagerie of fossilized fauna in Candeleros rocks, including ancient species of fish, frogs, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and several types of dinosaurs. Few of the fossilized creatures have received the notoriety of Giganotosaurus carolinii—a carnivorous theropod thought to be larger and faster than Tyrannosaurs Rex. . Petroleum geologists are more interested in what lies beneath the Candeleros Formation. Several layers of rock, formed when the area was covered by an ocean, contain gas and oil. While drilling has been ongoing here since 1918, the recent discovery of a large deposit of shale gas and oil in the Vaca Muerta Formation has made the Neuquén Basin one of the few regions outside of the United States where companies are pursuing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. . Read more: https://go.nasa.gov/2ECQS1P
Glacier Flour in Greenland Skies Dust is probably the last thing that comes to mind when you think about Greenland, an island mostly covered by ice. . Though Greenland’s dust events are nothing like the massive clouds of dust and sand that can darken skies over the Sahara Desert for days, winds in Greenland are occasionally strong enough to send plumes of sediment streaming from dried-out lakes, river valleys, and outwash plains along the coasts. The dust in Greenland is mainly glacial flour, a fine-grained silt formed by glaciers grinding and pulverizing rock. . The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite and a sensor on the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 collected imagery on September 29, 2018, of a sizable silt plume streaming from Greenland’s east coast. The source was a braided stream valley about 130 kilometers (80 miles) northwest of Ittoqqortoomiit, a village at a latitude of 73 degrees North. That puts the village north of the northern coast of Alaska. . The pair of Landsat and Sentinel 2 images—captured on September 23 and 29, 2018—shows the floodplain where the stream flows into Scoresby Sound. As the soil on the floodplain dried out (Sept 23), the floodplain became increasingly gray. Northwesterly winds on September 29 were strong enough to lift glacial flour into the air. . “This is by far the biggest event detected and reported by satellites that I know about,” said Santiago Gassó, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. . To learn more about glacial flour, read more here: https://go.nasa.gov/2PGZeqo
Flood Basalts on Mars and Iceland One of the defining features of the surface of Mars is the stark divide between the heavily cratered highlands on the southern two-thirds of the planet and the flatter, younger lowland plains that make up the northern third. . The first image, captured in 2012 by the Context Camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows a crater with a distinctive fissure vent and lava flow. The precise volume or age of the eruption that caused the lava flow in this Elysium Planitia crater is not clear. However, this does appears to be a relatively young and small flow for this part of Mars. . Planetary geologists look to certain volcanoes on Earth to understand how volcanic processes play out on Mars. While there are some key differences, basaltic lava flows on both planets have similarities. For instance, there are parallels in the way flood basalt has poured from a vent at the Holuhraun lava field in Iceland in recent years and the way flood basalt spread out in the Elysium Planitia crater. . For this reason, a group of planetary scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and researchers from the University of Arizona, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and the University of St. Andrews all traveled to Holuhraun in the summer of 2018 to study the young lava flow. There they tested several sensors that could eventually be used in future satellite missions or by astronauts exploring Mars. . The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured an image (second image) of lava pouring from Holuhraun on January 2, 2015. The false-color image combines shortwave infrared, near infrared, and red light (OLI bands 6-5-4). The plume of steam and sulfur dioxide appears white. Newly-formed basaltic rock is black. Fresh lava is bright orange. The photographs on this page show members of the research team exploring the young basaltic rock found in Holuhraun’s vent in August 2018. The eruption at Holuhraun began in August 2015 and continued through February 2016, becoming Iceland’s largest eruption by volume since 1783. . Read more here: https://go.nasa.gov/2IZKQXR
Landslides in Hokkaido On September 6, 2018, shortly after the remnants of Typhoon Jebi drenched southern Hokkaido, a powerful earthquake rattled the Japanese island. The 6.6-magnitude quake, centered near the town of Tomakomai, came from the relatively shallow depth of 35 kilometers (22 miles). It shook the surface enough to unleash hundreds of landslides. . The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satelliteacquired imagery of the widespread landslides. One image, acquired on September 15, 2018, shows landslides in a hilly area east of Abira. For comparison, the other image shows the same area on July 26, 2017. . In a sign that the landslides were earthquake-triggered, most of them appeared to start from the tops of ridges, noted University of Sheffield geologist Dave Petley on his blog. Based on drone imagery, the landslides also appeared to be quite shallow and mobile, he said. . Some landslide experts have pointed out that the presence of extremely saturated volcanic soils may have been a key ingredient behind such a widespread outbreak of landslides. Many of the hills in this area have layers of porous volcanic material known as pumice layered into the soil, which can become quite slippery when wet. . Read more: https://go.nasa.gov/2NipEws
Bou Craa Phosphate Mine, Western Sahara An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of the Bou Craa open-cast (or open-pit) phosphate mine. Phosphate is a prime component of agricultural fertilizer, and Bou Craa is one of the largest phosphate mines in the world. The site produces around 2.4 million tons annually, 14 percent of the world’s production(2011). . Parallel trenches are cut into the phosphate deposits to facilitate extraction of the material. The mine is one of the few human patterns visible from space in this almost entirely uninhabited western extremity of the Sahara Desert. . The world’s longest conveyor belt (100 kilomters/60 miles) transports the rock to the coast for shipment to users around the world. Part of the conveyor belt appears near the central crushing facility. The belt structure, which carries 2,000 metric tons of rock per hour, is so long and straight that it has often attracted astronaut attention in this otherwise almost featureless landscape. . Most of the people in this territory either work at Bou Craa or live in the coastal town of El Aaiún, Western Sahara’s largest city. The area of the mine has grown significantly in the past five decades. Thorough reworking of the near-surface rock makes the early excavation patterns unrecognizable today. Read more: https://go.nasa.gov/2zDgtmP
A Broad View of Flooding in the Carolinas The National Weather Service office in Raleigh offered a preliminary estimate that nearly 8 trillion gallons of rain fell on #NorthCarolina from Sept 13 to 17, 2018. That led to catastrophic #flooding across many parts of the state. . Before and after #HurricaneFlorence swept through the Carolinas, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the #Landsat8 satellite observed several residential areas and major rivers. The image pair above shows the Trent River on July 14, 2017, and September 19, 2018. These false-color images use a combination of visible and infrared light (OLI bands 6-5-4) to make it easier to distinguish between flood waters and land. . The #TrentRiver reached an all-time high of 29 feet (8.8 meters) on September 17, more than twice the #flood stage (the height at which the river will overflow and cause damage). Water levels decreased to 24 feet (7.3 meters) by September 20, but many homes, public buildings, and roads leading to the town of Trenton are full of standing water. . The Trent was one of 16 rivers that reached major flood stage in North Carolina on September 18. The majority of the rivers have started to subside but still remain in major flooding stage. The National Weather Service reports a few rivers are still rising. The #NeuseRiver at Kinston and a portion of the #CapeFear River were projected to rise an additional foot by September 22. . Read more: https://go.nasa.gov/2OFKKqb
The Atlantic basin was relatively quiet for much of August 2018, but September brought a surge in storm activity. Category 4 #HurricaneFlorence was the most ominous for people in the United States. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect the slow-moving storm to reach the coast of the Carolinas late on September 13, bringing a life-threatening storm surge, exceptionally heavy inland rains, and damaging winds. Early on September 12, astronaut Alex Gerst shot this photograph of Florence’s eye as viewed from the International Space Station. He tweeted: “Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane? It's chilling, even from space.” . See more awesome, frightening views of Hurricane Florence: https://go.nasa.gov/2OfIRjH
Smoke Plumes Tower Over California In July and August 2018, towering plumes of smoke have risen from several fires in northern California. The heat generated by intense wildfires can churn up towering pyrocumulus and pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which lift smoke above the boundary layer, the lowest part of the atmosphere. “The hotter a fire burns, the higher up smoke can go, and the farther it can spread,” explained Amber Soja, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Smoke injected above the boundary layer often travels hundreds or thousands of kilometers away from the source before descending. Satellites have observed smoke from the California fires spreading into nearly two dozen states. On August 6, 2018, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on #Landsat 8 captured the first image, which shows a dense column of smoke topped by a pyrocumulus cloud over the #Ranch fire. The second image is a photograph taken on August 2 by an astronaut on the International Space Station #ISS and shows another pyrocumulus cloud rising from the #Ferguson fire near Yosemite National Park. The park service closed Yosemite Valley and other parts of the park due to heavy smoke. As fires chew through wood, grass, homes, and other materials, a noxious mix of gases and fine particles enter the atmosphere, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, organic carbon, and black carbon. Fine particles (PM2.5)—particularly black carbon (soot)—are especially harmful because they can easily enter the lungs and bloodstream. The last visualization is a map showing the plumes of black carbon associated with the #Carr, #Mendocino, and Ferguson fires, using data from the GEOS-5 forward processing model. According to data from the California Air Resources Board, wildfires are a major source of black carbon emissions in California, far surpassing vehicle emissions, wood stoves, industrial emissions, agricultural fires, and other sources of the pollutant. Read the full story: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/92570/smoke-plumes-tower-over-california
Portholes Through the Clouds Mottled streaks of blue cut across decks of clouds in this satellite image. Open-celled clouds gave the satellite a glimpse of the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean off of the west coast of Peru. The surrounding fields of white are closed-celled clouds. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired the natural-color image on July 16, 2018. The main difference between the two cloud types relates to the flow of air. Moist, warm air rises in the center of closed cells and sinks around the edges. Open-cell clouds have air sinking in the center of cells and rising along the edges. In both cases, clouds form when parcels of warm air rise, expand, and cool enough for water vapor to condense into liquid droplets. The presence of open or closed-cell stratocumulus clouds offer clues about the distribution of precipitation. Uninterrupted decks of closed-cell clouds generally produce little to no rain, whereas open cells tend to occur as light rain begins to fall. Decks of closed-cell clouds tend to be more stable than their open-celled counterparts. Studies of satellite imagery show that pockets of open cells tend to oscillate, forming and disappearing over a period of about three hours. In contrast, closed-cell clouds keep the same structure for more than ten hours. Learn more: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/92459/portholes-through-the-clouds
There Goes the Ice This natural-color image of ice breaking up on Hudson Bay on July 22, 2018 was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. The image shows a large patch of ice swirling in the southern part of the bay near the Belcher Islands, the curved set of islands in the lower right of the image. According to the Canadian Ice Service, ice melt was a few weeks later than normal in northeastern Hudson Bay and along the Labrador Coast, but a few weeks ahead of normal in western and southwestern Hudson Bay. Though the timing of the ice breakup is changing, the bay is usually ice-free by August. The rhythms of sea ice play a central role in the lives of the animals of Hudson Bay, particularly polar bears. When the bay is topped with ice, polar bears head out to hunt for seals and other prey. When the ice melts in the summer, the bears swim to shore, where they fast until sea ice returns. University of Alberta scientist Andrew Derocher is part of a group that monitors Hudson Bay polar bear populations using information gathered from tagged bears and GPS satellites. In a tweet dated July 20, 2018, he noted that some of the tagged bears were still on the ice floes, while others had made the move to shore. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/92483/there-goes-the-ice
Summer Blooms in North American Lakes Blooms of cyanobacteria—often called “blue-green algae”—are a regular phenomenon in Florida’s Lake Okeechobee during the summertime. In early July 2018, blooms of the phytoplankton were detected across 90 percent of the lake. That amount decreased by the middle of the month, but some of the bloom was still visible on July 15 when the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this natural-color image of the southwestern portion of the lake. Cyanobacteria blooms also show up this time of year at higher latitudes. The second natural-color image shows a bloom in the western basin of Lake Erie, acquired July 4 with the OLI on Landsat 8. According to NOAA’s analysis of bloom conditions, the bloom on that day was visible 24 kilometers (15 miles) offshore the Michigan coast and extended east to Isle St. George. https://go.nasa.gov/2NtTlvh
Connemara National Park An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of the West Region of #Ireland, along the Atlantic Ocean. It can be rare to see any part of the British Isles without clouds from orbit. At the center of the image lies Connemara National Park, one of six managed by Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service. Shadows on the western faces of the mountains indicate that the photo was taken before local noon. Twelve Bens, a famous mountain range in the #Connemara region, is a dominant feature of the countryside, with peaks rising to 729 meters (2,392 feet). Avid climbers attempt to hike all twelve of the peaks in one day. The park’s valleys were once used for agriculture, while the bogs were mined for peat fuel. Peat is decayed organic matter, rich in natural heaps of carbon that can be burned for energy. With increased heat and pressure, peat becomes low-grade coal known as lignite. The photo also shows several lakes, with Lough Corrib standing out as the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland. Lough Carra, Lough Mask, and Lough Corrib are limestone lakes connected not only by surface streams, but also by at least one underground waterway—a typical feature of limestone terrains. All three lakes drain to the Atlantic Ocean. Over the past 1.7 million years, the island of Ireland has experienced several intermittent ice ages, followed by warmer interglacial periods where ice sheets melted and scoured the landscape. The landforms left over from this ice movement include steep, eroded mountainsides, U-shaped valleys, and drumlins—whale-back shaped mounds of rock fragments formed under the ice sheets as they flowed slowly towards the coast. https://go.nasa.gov/2NVHN4H #connemaranationalpark #drumlins #twelvebens
Churning in the Chukchi Sea Regardless of the amount of winter ice cover, the waters off of the Alaskan coast usually come alive each spring with blooms of #phytoplankton. These blooms can form striking patterns of blue and green seawater, such as those visible in this image of the Chukchi Sea acquired on June 18, 2018, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on #Landsat 8. “We see blooms in the southern Chukchi Sea pretty regularly this time of year,” said Kevin Arrigo, a biological oceanographer at Stanford University. According to Karina Giesbrecht, a doctoral candidate at the University of Victoria, diatoms are typically the first type of phytoplankton to bloom each spring after the breakup of Arctic sea ice. Diatoms are a microscopic form of algae, with silica shells and plenty of chlorophyll, and one of the most common types of phytoplankton in the ocean. Other types, such as coccolithophores, have adapted to harsher conditions and show up once nutrients start to run out. In the southern part of the Chukchi Sea just north of the Bering Strait, however, conditions are a bit more complex. Two main water masses flow from the Bering Strait and enter the southern Chukchi. One type, known as “Bering Sea Water,” is cool, salty, and rich in nutrients. This water fuels most of the phytoplankton growth, primarily diatoms, which are likely the main reason for the colorful green waters pictured here. (Sediments could also be contributing to the bright green areas.) “The Bering Strait does a great job of mixing up nutrients to the surface waters, where there’s lots of light available for the phytoplankton to grow,” Giesbrecht said. “That mixing, followed by the slowing of the currents that happens once the waters exit the Bering Strait, means that diatom blooms in this part of the southern Chukchi happily continue until at least the end of July.” The second mass of seawater is known as “Alaskan Coastal Water,” which is warmer, less salty, and nutrient-poor. Diatom growth is usually lower in these waters, but coccolithophores can do well here. https://go.nasa.gov/2LbMXeC #chukchisea
Fires in a Dry, Hot Colorado Summer On June 27, 2018, an illegal campfire caused the third-largest #wildfire in #Colorado state history, known as the Spring Creek Fire. According to news reports, more than 140 homes have been destroyed and 1,481 firefighters were on the scene as of July 10, 2018. This image was acquired on July 6, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on #Landsat 8. The image is false color (OLI bands 7-5-2) to better differentiate burned areas (red) from the surrounding landscape. The #fire is located five miles northeast of Fort Garland and spanned on both sides of Highway 160. As of July 12, the fire affected 107,967 acres of land, making it almost the second largest fire in state history. (The second largest fire in Colorado history, the West Fork Complex fire, burned 109,049 acres.) The fire was 83 percent contained on July 12, with the fire completely contained for the area south of Highway 160. The northwest region of the fire remained uncontrolled as crews had trouble accessing areas of steep terrain with vegetation and other materials susceptible to burning. Officials estimated the fire would be completely contained by the end of July, more than a month after it ignited. Upcoming rainfall in the area could further help firefighters manage the blaze. Spring Creek fire was one of 14 fires burning in Colorado on July 12. The state experienced hot summer days, high winds, and extreme to exceptional drought conditions for the past three months. Colorado has not faced similar drought conditions since 2013, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Officials instated bans against all open burning around the state in light of the dry, hot conditions. https://go.nasa.gov/2JmqIxp @nasa #nasaearth #springcreekfire #springfire #laveta
Marseille, France An astronaut aboard the International Space Station ( @ISS) shot this photograph of #Marseille, the second largest city in #France. Known as Massalia in the days of the Roman Empire, the city sits along the Mediterranean coast. From above, Marseille has a distinct red hue due to the clay terra cotta tiles covering the roofs of most buildings. Clay deposits are mined locally in Var, northeast of Marseille. Those signature roof tiles have influenced architectural styling in parts of Australia and New Zealand since the late 1800s. The international spread of French culture and products can be attributed to Marseille’s coastal location. The city has been a major trading port since 400 BC, and the current Port of Marseille-Fos serves as the second largest port on the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the city is known for international trade and commerce of hydrocarbon products, iron, steel, ships, construction materials, alcohol, and food. Adjacent to Marseille lies Calanques National Park, Europe’s first peri-urban national park—it is located at the transition between town and country. Founded in 2012, the park encompasses both land and water, while protecting the region’s natural landscapes, terrestrial and marine biodiversity, and cultural heritage. https://go.nasa.gov/2J4ClJs @nasa #nasaearth #astronautphotography
Powerful Typhoon Heads for China Once a super #typhoon, the still powerful Typhoon Maria is expected to make landfall in eastern #China on July 11, 2018, with damaging winds and heavy rains. Schools and factories in the city of Fuzhou have been closed; more than 140,000 residents have been evacuated from coastal and low-lying areas; and fishing boats have returned to port in anticipation of the typhoon’s arrival. Around 1,500 workers from Fujian Expressway Group are standing by to repair potential damage from the typhoon. This image of Typhoon Maria was acquired on July 10, 2018, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. The storm already passed by Guam, knocking out power before passing over Japan’s southern Ryukyu Islands. The storm was headed for the northern tip of Taiwan and towards the Fujian and Zhejiang provinces of China. Maria went through one of the fastest intensifications on record, growing from a tropical storm to a super typhoon in one day. The storm was at its most powerful on July 6 and July 8, when winds exceeded 135 knots (155 miles/250 kilometers per hour). The storm was equivalent to a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The storm has since been downgraded to a typhoon and is expected to weaken some more as it approaches land. Even so, Typhoon Maria is formidable, bringing the potential to damage buildings and knock out power lines. https://go.nasa.gov/2NI3AwP @nasa #nasaearth
Volcanic Mood Rings From milky white to vibrant turquoise to blood red, the three #lakes at the summit of the #Kelimutu volcano are known to unpredictably change color--a phenomenon unique to this #volcano on the Indonesian island of Flores. These images, acquired by the Operational Land Imager on #Landsat 8, show the various colors of the crater lakes on three different days. All three crater lakes appear on the crest of the volcano with the eastern two lakes sharing a common crater wall. The changing colors have been a source of supernatural folklore. Locals say the lakes are the resting place for departed souls. Depending on the good or bad deeds performed in their life, the deceased get placed into the various lakes. The westernmost lake known as Tiwu Ata Mbupu (meaning Lake of the Old People) is usually blue. Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of the Young Men and Women) is usually turquoise. The southeastern lake called Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched Lake) is usually red or brown. It is believed to be the home of those who have been evil in life. Depending on when you visit, the colors can range from white, green, blue, brown, or black. In 2016, the lakes changed colors six times. While other lakes can be colored by species of bacteria, the changing colors at Kelimutu are thought to be caused by fumaroles, or volcanic vents that release steam and gases such as sulfur dioxide. The fumaroles produce upwelling in the lakes, such that denser, mineral rich water from the bottom is brought towards the surface. All of the lakes contain relatively high concentrations of zinc and lead. While minerals play a part in the coloring, another key factor is the amount of oxygen present in the water. Like your blood, these lake waters appear bluer (or greener) when low in oxygen. When they are oxygen-rich, they appear blood red or even cola black. https://go.nasa.gov/2KEHxt5 @nasa #nasaearth #floresindonesia #floresisland
Rare Fair Skies Over the British Isles Islands tend to have a lot of cloud cover, thanks to the moisture all around them. Landmasses in middle latitudes also tend to be cloudier than other parts of the planet. And the intersections between different atmospheric circulation patterns can lead to a lot of cloud cover. The United Kingdom and Ireland fit all of those categories, and they are among the cloudiest places on Earth. Air masses from the Arctic, southern and northern Europe, the Maritimes, and the Gulf Stream all come crashing together in this region. Yet in late June 2018, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales all bathed in a rare day of cloud-free skies. On June 27, 2018, satellites captured the data for the natural-color image above. It is a composite of scenes acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite and by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. While the islands on that day were cloudless, the seas around them were blanketed by lumpy marine stratocumulus clouds. Note, too, the phytoplankton bloom in the North Sea. According to a 2012 study based on MODIS data, the probability of cloud-free skies on any given day over Great Britain is 21.3 percent, with a maximum probability of 33.3 percent in November and 12.9 probability in March. Overall, about 67 percent of the Earth is bathed in clouds on any given day, with just 10 percent of the ocean being completely cloud-free. https://go.nasa.gov/2KvJgQy @nasa #nasaearth #cloudfree #nofilter #uk #ireland #britain #england #scotland #wales