Where In The Universe #41

Article written: 4 Feb , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

Are you ready for another Where In The Universe Challenge? Take a look at the image above and see if you can name where in the Universe this image is from. Give yourself extra points if you can name the spacecraft responsible for the image. We’ll provide the image today, but won’t reveal the answer until tomorrow. This gives you a chance to mull over the image and provide your answer/guess in the comment section. Check back tomorrow on this same post to see how you did. Good luck!

UPDATE: The answer to this Challenge has now been posted below. Don’t peek at the answer until you make a guess!

This image is of oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico on Earth. No, its not from an oil spill, but from natural seepage coming from the ocean floor. Natural seepage can introduces a significant amount of oil to ocean environments. Usually oil slicks on the ocean are difficult to see in natural-color (photo-like) satellite images, since the ocean surface is already so dark blue, the additional darkening or slight color change that results from a spill is usually imperceptible.

But remote-sensing scientists recently demonstrated that these “invisible” oil slicks do show up in photo-like images if you look in the right place, and if the sun is just at the right angle. The image above is a cropped version of the larger image below, showing the Gulf of Mexico, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite on May 13, 2006.

Gulf of Mexico oil slick.  Credit: NASA/Terra Satellite

Gulf of Mexico oil slick. Credit: NASA/Terra Satellite

For more info on these images, see NASA’s Earth Observatory website

How did you do in this week’s Challenge?

41 Responses

  1. Jordi Guzmán says

    Is the Gulf of Mexico and the spacecraft is MASA’s satellite Terra.

  2. robby says

    Looks like Europa, however, the rest of pic appears too smooth, still, I say Europa.

  3. Sofia says

    Earth maby ?

  4. Aaron Cross says

    I think it might be Mars? Maybe

  5. Rednet says

    Gulf of Mexico, just south of N.O.
    The streaks are natural oil leaks.

  6. Jorge says

    Ouch! You’re making this tough for us. Good! 🙂

    OK, I’ll be guessing Mars and the HiRISE camera onboard the MRO. Why? Well, because the blue streaks look a lot like tracks left by dust devils, the coloration is consistent with the false colours typically used by the HiRISE team, and there are signs of topography to the right of the image which are also consistent with martian topography.

    So there: Mars. Not certain at all, but that’s my guess.

  7. ringman says

    Earth. It’s definitely and ocean from space, but I don’t know which one, and I would guess it was taken from the International Space Station.

  8. bosely says

    My grandfather’s comb over from one of our super secret spy satellites.

  9. Middenrat says

    that is tough, but that can only be terrestrial, from Iran’s Omid 1 justice probe.

  10. Michael says


  11. robby says

    I am certain many posters seen this picture posted before and remembered where it is, this is one of the few I have not seen.
    However, the webmaster will post many more in the future for which I will remember
    the location. I was too lazy to post in the previous weeks where I knew the location.
    Oh well, lol

  12. jennifer says

    I think it looks like a fogged up window/mirror with some marks where it’s been touched.

  13. IVI says

    Mars. Dust devils traces.HiRISE.

  14. Nivekkev says

    jennifer, I agree with you, looks like a windshield with frost all over it…

  15. Mike lynch says

    My guess: Earth.
    Clouds over an ocean on earth at sunset or sunrise.
    Likely jet contrails deformed by the movement of the clouds over time.
    Lotta jets = near big city – NYC?
    More likely from the ISS than a weather satellite.

    Wait! Wait!
    I’m changing my guess to: low clouds moving through the Skyscrapers in NYC!

  16. mad says

    ummm, some sort of water umm mars? no earth? no titan? no i don’t know lets hope its one of these tho

  17. chesscanoe says

    The Terra satellite captured these oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico – not because they look so dark to the human eye, but because they are relatively calm water amid the glitter of sunlight bouncing off the “normal” sea.

  18. robby says

    Mike lynch-sorry-can’t change mind,Lol, I want to change my mind but too late-next time,I will give more than a 10 second glance.
    There are those on this feed who ‘cheated’, but oh well, lol

  19. Mickeee says

    It looks like negative contrails on Earth as seen from ISS.

  20. Adonis says

    These are dust devil’s footprints on martian surface. This is an oblique view from a Mars orbiter with enought resolution to clearly resolve individual tracks. Not sure, but guess was shoot from Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter (if not, by Mars Global Surveyor).

  21. Nephish777 says

    Oil slicks in Gulf of Mexico (natural seepage) from one of the Earth observation satlellights.

  22. Val Parks says

    It does look like dust devil tracks on Mars, but maybe from one of the older probes like Odessy or MGS.

  23. Navneeth says

    Trails of jet streams over the Himalayas. I guess it was taken by one of ESA’s Earth-observing satellites.

  24. Savino says

    Seems my primary mirror! 🙁

  25. Chantel says

    I’m going to guess Enceladus and taken with Cassini.

  26. Eric Near Buffalo says

    It is definitely oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisianna. Found it online. Search “oil slicks in gulf of mexico” and you’ll get a story and picture. What we see on Universe Today is just a cropped version.

  27. Marco A. Piña says

    Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunaly oil slicks

  28. joe says

    looks to me like a geyser field on enceladus
    casinni probe

  29. Jonathan says

    Seems to be Enceladus by Cassini to me.

  30. John Bouffioux says

    Great site thanks a bunch! I would be very interested in hearing about your experiences and how do you cope with them and what recommendations you have!

    Was going to write a long desertation but hello?? That’s not the way I see it.

    So comments, let em fly ha ha.

    John B

  31. RetardedFishFrog says

    That’s the frost on my car windshield.

  32. Barak says

    Well, at least I guessed the right planet, though my sense of scale was way off.

  33. Astrofiend says

    # Savino Says:
    February 5th, 2009 at 9:29 am

    “Seems my primary mirror! 🙁 ”

    >>> !!! That must be a disappointing state of affairs for you Savino!

    Anyway I had no idea what the piccy was of… but if it is oil slicks in the Gulf of NM, then that is a disappointing state of affairs too.

  34. mike jurca says


  35. Tom says

    The picture is of natural oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico. Actually, most of the oil and tar that washes up on Texas beaches is from these natural seeps. Normal photos don’t show these at all–this is made using the sun’s glint on water.

  36. Oilslick in the Gulf of Mexico!

    sorry had to be the jerk that posted after the answer

  37. Jennifer says

    actually the answer is so awesome.

  38. Spoodle58 says

    I have no idea where, is it some polar cap?

  39. Spoodle58 says

    Your right Jennifer the answer is awesome, would never have got that. 🙂

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