Located in the Northern Territory of Australia, Uluru-Kata Tjuta
National Park hosts some of the world’s most spectacular examples of
inselbergs, or isolated mountains. The most famous of these inselbergs
(also known as Ayers Rock). An equally massive inselberg located
approximately 30 kilometers (20 miles) to the northwest is known as Kata
Tjuta. Like Uluru, this is a sacred site to the native Anangu or
Aboriginal people. An English-born explorer named the highest peak Mount
Olga, with the entire grouping of rocks informally known as “the
Olgas.” Mount Olga has a peak elevation of 1,069 meters (3,507 feet)
above sea level, making it 206 meters (676 feet) higher than Uluru.
In this astronaut photograph, afternoon sunlight highlights the
rounded summits of Kata Tjuta against the surrounding sandy plains. Sand
dunes are visible at image lower left, while in other areas (image
bottom and image right) sediments washed from the rocks have been
anchored by a variety of grasses and bushes adapted to the arid climate.
Green vegetation in the ephemeral stream channels that drain Kata
Tjuta (image top center) provides colorful contrast with the red rocks
and surrounding soils. Large gaps in the rocks (highlighted by shadows)
are thought to be fractures that have been enlarged due to erosion.
Kata Tjuta is comprised of gently dipping Mount Currie Conglomerate, a
rock that includes rounded fragments of other rock types (here,
with less abundant basalt
in a coarse sandy matrix). Geologists interpret the Mount Currie
Conglomerate as a remnant of a large fan of material rapidly eroded from
mountains uplifted approximately 550 million years ago. Subsequent
burial under younger sediments consolidated the eroded materials to form
the conglomerate exposed at the surface today.
Astronaut photograph ISS023-E-29806
was acquired on April 30, 2010, with a Nikon D3 digital camera fitted
with an 800 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations
experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space
Center. The image was taken by the Expedition
23 crew. The image in this article has been cropped and enhanced to
improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. The International
Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS
National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be
of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those
images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by
astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of
Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.