The view from space of our home planet is often breathtaking and sobering. Lately, there has been a plethora of amazing images on NASA’s Earth Observatory website. Take the one above, for example. A swirling Van Gogh painting? No, phytoplankton blooming off of the Atlantic coast of Patagonia, and the swirls are created from two strong ocean currents stirring up a colorful brew of floating nutrients and microscopic plant life. Amazing that the tiny life joins together in huge assemblages that we can see from space. This image was taken on the southern hemisphere’s summer solstice on December 21, 2010. Scientists used seven separate different spectral bands to highlight the differences in the plankton communities across this swath of ocean.
Want more Earthly beauty? See below.
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A giant dried rose laying across the ocean? No, this astronaut photograph provides a view of tidal flats and channels near Sandy Cay, on the western side of Long Island and along the eastern margin of the Great Bahama Bank. The continuously exposed parts of the island are brown, a result of soil formation and vegetation growth. To the north of Sandy Cay, an off-white tidal flat composed of carbonate sediments is visible; light blue-green regions indicate shallow water on the tidal flat. The tidal flow of seawater is concentrated through gaps in the land surface, leading to the formation of relatively deep channels that cut into the sediments. The channels and areas to the south of the island have a vivid blue color that indicates deeper water.
While those of us in the northland have had long nights, Antarctica enjoys round-the-clock sunlight. The light arrives at a low angle, however, as the Sun makes a daily circuit around the horizon, and icebergs cast long shadows over the surrounding sea ice. This image, acquired on December 13, 2010, from the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite shows icebergs along the Princess Ragnhild Coast in East Antarctica. Besides distinguishing between icebergs and thinner ice, the low-angled Sun highlights the differences between the icebergs themselves.
The icebergs with rough surfaces likely broke off from the coast, far from this area, and spent time bobbing over the open ocean. Smooth icebergs likely originated in this area and have not yet traveled far.
For more great images, see NASA’s Earth Observatory website.