Where In The Universe Challenge #84

by Nancy Atkinson on December 24, 2009

where in the universe
It’s time once again for another Where In The Universe Challenge. Test your visual knowledge of the cosmos by naming where in the Universe this image was taken and give yourself extra points if you can name the spacecraft responsible for this picture. Post your guesses in the comments section, and check back on later at this same post to find the answer. To make this challenge fun for everyone, please don’t include links or extensive explanations with your answer. Good luck!

UPDATE: The answer has now been posted below.

This is the Atafu Atoll in the Southern Pacific Ocean. The image was taken by an ISS crew member from Expedition 18 crewmember. on the International Space Station. The ring-like shape of the atoll is the result of coral reefs building up around a former volcanic island. Over geologic time, the central volcano has subsided beneath the water surface, leaving the fringing reefs and a central lagoon that contains submerged coral reefs. Erosion and soil development on the surfaces of the exposed fringing reefs has lead to formation of tan to light brown beach deposits (southern and western sides of the atoll) and green vegetation cover (northern and eastern sides of the atoll).

Atafu Atoll is about eight kilometers wide. The primary settlement on Atafu is a village located at the northwestern corner of the atoll — indicated by an area of light gray dots in this photograph. The approximate elevation of Atafu Atoll is only two meters above the tidal high water level. Vulnerability to tropical cyclones and potential sea level rise makes the long-term habitability of the atoll uncertain.


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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