This Week’s Where In The Universe Challenge

Are you ready for another Where In The Universe Challenge? Take a look 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. As usual, 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 — if you dare! Check back tomorrow on this same post to see how you did. Good luck!

UPDATE: The answer has now been posted below.

This image was taken on On March 4, 2009, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. It is not plane contrails as some have suggested, but clouds that formed over the northeast Pacific Ocean that form around the particles in ship exhaust. This image shows how these ship “tracks” are different from the natural marine clouds in the same area. You can see a natural-color view of this image here, but from this enhanced image, scientists can determine the size of the cloud droplets.

Cloud droplets form when water vapor condenses onto a small particles, like the ship exhaust. The ship tracks are brighter than the regular clouds because the cloud particles in them are smaller (yellow and peach), but more numerous, than the particles in the natural clouds (lavender to dark purple).

Why are scientists concerned with cloud brightness? A cloud’s brightness impacts how much sunlight gets bounced back to space and how much reaches the surface of the Earth, which influences global climate. The size of the droplets also influences the amount of rain the clouds produce; smaller droplets are less likely to collide and form drops that are big enough to fall as rain.

How’d you do? Check back next week for another WITU Challenge!

37 Replies to “This Week’s Where In The Universe Challenge”

  1. ROFLMAO- SBC your ‘gravity slam’ against OIM ‘electro choke hold’ makes me laugh; I’m trying to stay neutral on this. Lol
    This picture is amazing, I have no idea, it looks like vapor trails from ground launched rocket barrage. It can’t be dust devils because the ‘tips’ are sharp

  2. Oooooookay…

    The planet is the Earth. That’s settled. The subject? Contrails, looks like, or perhaps missile exhaust gases in some warzone somewhere.

    The spacecraft? Absolutely no clue. The image seems to be infrared, so it’s probably some satellite with IR cameras, but there are tons of them up there, still dodging the debris.

  3. Contrails, and it looks like we are seeing the photo from the North facing South, as the contrails normally follow a great circle on the Earth.

    Don’t know where, though.

  4. It looks like a false color version of either a landscape with rivers or the inside of some crystal or biological array done with an electron microscope.

  5. I think April fools is right. I think it’s a mixture of a few different pictures. Or someone has put LSD on my rice bubbles again.

  6. earth. satellite or high altitude photo of smoke, either from fires or chimneys. colored purple!

  7. This is MARS with all of the bolders that have fallen off the ridges in a time lapse photo.

  8. the trails are rockets launched at the palestinians by a US NAVY rocket launcher in the mediterranean

  9. I’ll guess it’s Earth, an ocean basin with turbidity currents – undersea landslides.

  10. Actually, it looks a lot like some kind of exhaust, either from machinery (refineries) or volcanic vents.

  11. Those trails are originating at the surface and are moving at an angled trajectories, the bulk of them toward and beneath the cloud/smoke cover (upper left). It has to be geo-thermal activity and spewing hot rocks are producing the trails. If not a recent shot of Redoubt, it’s another volcano. As Wolter suggested possibly Terra/MODIS pic.

  12. Im sure its “stardust” in the aerogel collected by one of sucess space mission..somehow i still remember this picture..

  13. Everyone was wrong!!! lol.
    Nancy-keep posting very complex pictures,
    this will make everyone think-some of the posts are quite humorous but may have some merit.

  14. Hey, cool tips. Perhaps I’ll buy a glass of beer to that person from that forum who told me to go to your site 🙂

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