New Year’s Eve Where In The Universe Challenge

We’ll squeeze in one more WITU Challenge for 2008! The goal of this challenge is to test your skills and knowledge of the cosmos. Guess where in the Universe this image is from, and give yourself extra points if you can guess which spacecraft is responsible for the image. Post your guess in the comment section (no links to hints please!) and check back tomorrow for the answer. Good luck, and Happy New Year!

UPDATE (1/1/09): The answer has now been posted below. If you haven’t made your guess yet, no peeking before you do!!

This beautiful image shows the setting sun glinting off the Amazon River and numerous lakes in its floodplain, taken by an astronaut on board the ISS in August 19, 2008. About 150 kilometers of the sinuous Amazon is shown here; the area is about 1,000 kilometers inland from the Atlantic Ocean. A member of Expedtion 17 took the image with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera fitted with a 400 mm lens. This image is part of the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment. The original image can be seen at NASA’s Earth Observatory website.

I really will provide the answer and a link to the original picture when it is time. There’s really no need to provide links to the answer in the comments.

Happy New Year, and check back again next week for another Where In The Universe Challenge.

36 Replies to “New Year’s Eve Where In The Universe Challenge”

  1. Well, the image looks like a ‘lava flow’-
    It doesn’t look like any of the photos I’ve seen
    of Mars. It doesn’t look like Venus. The moons I’ve seen, though with active plumes,
    and lava flows- dried or not, don’t seem to fit the lava flows in this picture.. Though,
    I think I’ve seen the picture before, but I don’t remember when or where..
    And with that said, I’ll guess -Saturns’ Moon
    Titan. Since the picture of Saturn is next..

  2. I am sure that the image must be of the amazon river.

    But I also remember seeing another similar image of russia taken by a expedition 13 crew member.

    So, either one of the two is correct.

  3. In a brief history of time, this image appears somewhere in the vast cosmos as a mere subatomic speck.

  4. That’s the Amazon River in the setting sun, photographed by the crew of the International Space Station.
    Happy New Year!

  5. I think it’s Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. It looks like the the methane/ethane oceans on the surface.

  6. Must be earth, where else can you get this stunning combination of surface liquid, atmospheric clouds and sunset golden color…
    And such a picturesque photo is most likely taken from the ISS

  7. Nah nah nah, Nancy: this is the first challenge of 2009, not the last one of 2008. 😉

    For me, at least… It’s almost 1 in the morning around here.

    This is obviously our beautiful little blue planet, even if this photo has very little blue in it. Probably something shot from the vantage point of the ISS, or maybe the Shuttle (but I’m betting the ISS), and the morphology of the terrain leads me into guessing a sub-polar river, maybe in Alaska or Canada.

    Happy 2009, people.

  8. Those look like meandering rivers, with plenty of bends and turns. Those are typical of a place flush with verdant life, such as a rainforest on Earth, not of an abiotic world. So I’ll guess either the Amazon Basin or the Congo.

  9. ISS image of the Amazon Delta.

    And Tim,
    Cassini is not capable of producing surface images of Titan from above in this kind of colour or with this kind of detail.

  10. Hi! My initial guess was Titan ..But after reading the comments above i am not so sure…..
    Wish u all a very Happy New Year!!!

  11. It’s a cleaned up (finally!) view of Titan. The color gives it away.
    Or it could just be wishful thinking on my part….. I was very disappointed with the photos from Titan.

  12. It’s definitely a river network on Earth and almost certainly from the ISS or a Shuttle mission.

    Kind of looks like south Louisiana or the Three Rivers area near the Louisiana/Mississippi border where the Red River joins the Mississippi River and Atchafalaya Basin.

    Working offshore in the GOM, I fly over similar areas every couple of weeks (though, at a much lower altitude) and the sun reflects just like this in the mornings and evenings.

  13. Earth river(s). A tropical, semi-tropical delta. Or perhaps a temperate river during a summer month. It could be thi inland waterway of the US or perhaps the Mississippi (but I see no sign of a major US city). Just for variety I’ll guess the Ganges delta.

    Happy New Year Nancy! My absolute favorite science writer. Best wishes for the coming year.

  14. From a geologic point of view, this is a tributary system. Some substance is acting in a fluid-like manner, and flows from the upper left to the lower right. The most likely fluid is water. The terrain it is passing through is very flat, hence the wide “S’s”. The inputting tributaries are short and straight, so suggest they come from a higher level, hills or something. No central ‘ocean’ is seen Sharp cutoffs of the tributaries in the upper left, and blurring in the bottom left suggest clouds. The photos must be of Earth, as the only other planet-with-flowing-fluid photos are from Cassini of Titan, but I’ve never seen them so clear and colorful. Since I cannot recall a river delta this short, and there’s no central ocean, I’m going to say the Denali glacier from the ISS, just to be different.

  15. It is an astronaut picture of the Amazon River and its floodplains, taken August 19, 2008. This photo shows the river about 1000 km from the mouth into the Atlantic.

  16. I’ll agree with most of the other posters, it’s Earth– but it looks to me like it could be a glacier photographed as the sun was setting, where the light is hitting just the few spots that are a little more elevated.

  17. Good one! I guessed the Ganges Delta – a dead miss. The Amazon in the wet season – shoulda known! There’s plenty of hints if ya look carefully. Love these things!

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