ISS007 Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Photographic Highlights

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View larger image for ISS007-E-10960
ISS007-E-10960
Alexandria, Egypt: Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, Alexandria became a center of trade and learning in the ancient world. Alexander built the causeway between the Eastern and Western Harbors, joining Pharos Island (arrow) to the mainland. Alexandria’s cultural status was symbolized by the lighthouse on Pharos, one of the “Seven Wonders of the World.” The causeway is still known as the old part of the modern city. Since the year 2000, underwater archeologists have located the sunken palace, ceremonial buildings and port facilities of ancient Alexandria, located along most of the curved southern shoreline of the Eastern Harbor.

The Eastern Harbor was the main port in the Middle Ages. This detailed image taken by Space Station crew members using an 800-mm lens provides a view of the modern port facilities in the Western Harbor, where wharves and many moored ships can be detected. The lower box indicates the part of the city where the famous Library of Alexandria was located, and also where Alexander the Great may be buried. The upper box indicates the entertainment quarter where literary figures from the Middle East and Europe have worked. A wider view of the city was taken from the International Space Station in December 2000.

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ISS007-E-6066
Aurora Borealis Animation: Movie sequence of Aurora Borealis built from ISS007-E-6066 through ISS007-E-6085, produced by Mark Turner and Jim Hansen (JSC/DX3).
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ISS007-E-14344
Betsiboka Estuary, Madagascar: The Betsiboka Estuary on the northwest coast of Madagascar is the mouth of Madagascar’s largest river and one of the world’s fast-changing coastlines. Nearly a century of extensive logging of Madagascar’s rainforests and coastal mangroves has resulted in nearly complete clearing of the land and fantastic rates of erosion. After every heavy rain, the bright red soils are washed from the hillsides into the streams and rivers to the coast. Astronauts describe their view of Madagascar as “bleeding into the ocean.” One impact of the extensive 20th century erosion is the filling and clogging of coastal waterways with sediment—a process that is well illustrated in the Betsiboka estuary. In fact, ocean-going ships were once able to travel up the Betsiboka estuary, but must now berth at the coast.

A bad situation is made worse when tropical storms bring severe rainfall, greatly accelerating the rates of erosion. As an illustration, astronauts aboard the International Space Station documented widespread flooding and a massive red sediment plume flowing into the Bestiboka estuary and the ocean in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Gafilo, which hit northern Madagascar on March 7th and 8th, 2004 (top image). A comparative image (bottom) taken in September 2003 shows normal water levels in the estuary.

Despite the heavy coastal flooding in the top image, new coastal developments can be seen. The Mahajanga Aquaculture Development Project, a joint venture between Madagascar and the Japan International Cooperative Agency, strings along the coastal region at the mouth of the estuary (inset images). This project is a shrimp farm and has been developed since 1999. Successive images taken by astronauts show increasing numbers of ponds constructed between 2000 and the present. Coastal aquaculture projects are frequently controversial, pitting the protection and viability of coastal ecosystems (especially rapidly disappearing mangrove environments), against badly needed industry in developing countries.

links:
Red river (Betsiboka)
Flooding in Madagascar

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ISS007-E-6305
Kinshasa and Brazzaville: This image, taken from the International Space Station on June 6, 2003, shows two capital cities on opposite banks of the Congo River. The smaller city is Brazzaville on the north side of the river, and Kinshasa on the south side. The cities lie at the downstream end of an almost circular widening in the river known as Stanley Pool. The international boundary follows the south shore of the pool (roughly 30 km in diameter).

The Republic of the Congo, originally a French colony, is sometimes called Congo-Brazzaville—as opposed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (known from 1971 to 1999 as Zaire) which is often called Congo-Kinshasa, originally a Belgian colony. Brazzaville has a population of 600,000, compared with Kinshasa’s 6.8 million. Kinshasa’s population has more than doubled in 20 years—2.7 million in 1984 and 6.8 million in 2004. Kinshasa is thus now far larger than the entire Congo-Brazzaville republic, which has a population of almost 3 million. There is no bridge between the cities so that water craft of many kinds ply between them. It is not uncommon to see dugout canoes being paddled between the cities.

The Congo River drains the vast equatorial Congo Basin, and discharges 35,000-40,000 cubic meters per second of water at Stanley Pool (by comparison, the Nile River discharges 2,500-3,500 cubic meters per second at Aswan). The Congo River exits the pool through a markedly narrowed channel at a series of whitewater rapids that can be seen in this view from space.

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ISS007-E-13002
Effect of Drought on Great Salt Lake: Great Salt Lake serves as a striking visual marker for astronauts orbiting over North America. A sharp line across its center is caused by the restriction in water flow from the railroad causeway. The eye-catching colors of the lake stem from the fact that Great Salt Lake is hypersaline, typically 3-5 times saltier than the ocean, and the high salinities support sets of plants and animals that affect the light-absorbing qualities of the water. North of the causeway salinities are higher, and the water turns red from the pigments of halophilic bacteria. In the shallower corners of the lake, earthen dikes mark large salt evaporation works, which take on the jewel tones of turquoise, russet, amber, and pearl white.

The detailed image shows some of the salt works operated by Great Salt Lake Minerals and Chemicals Corporation near West Warren, Utah, on the eastern shore of the lake. Evaporative salt harvesting at Great Salt Lake is an important source of minerals for industrial uses. The lake contains an estimated 5 billion tons of salt, with 2.5 million additional tons washing in each year. Extraction rates are slightly higher than the amount added to the lake each year. In addition to sodium chloride, the ponds near West Warren are used to extract potassium sulfate and magnesium chloride, which are used to make fertilizers.

Space Station astronauts have recorded the decline in lake levels in response to a regional 5-year drought taking both detailed views and broad views of the entire lake. As lake levels have declined the salt works have become islands in the middle of a dry lakebed. Seasonal fluctuations in Great Salt Lake produce annual lows every fall, but there are significant longer-term fluctuations in lake levels relating to the climate. Great Salt Lake hit a 22-year low at 4,198 feet in the fall of 2002, and a near-record low again in October 2003. The lowest level ever recorded was 4,191 feet in 1963, and the highest levels were 4,212 feet in June 1986 and April 1987. Experimental scientific forecasts predict that lake levels will begin gradually increasing again, but the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook indicates only limited improvement from this snow season because the water deficits are so high.

Around the world, lake levels are an excellent indicator of local climate. Repeat observations over time allow comparisons and levels rise and fall in response to droughts and the broader climate patterns that are linked to droughts.

Less-detailed images of the decline in the Great Salt Lake as seen from Terra satellite’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor were previously shown on Earth Observatory. MODIS has also documented dust storms related to the drought.

Space Station images of Salt Lake City were also previously featured on Earth Observatory.

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ISS007-E-17772
Fall Colors Portland, Maine: The ISS-7 crew of the International Space Station enjoyed a bird’s-eye view of New England’s fall colors on a fine October morning. The fall foliage of Baxter Woods Park in Portland, Maine, shows the reds and browns of a mix of trees, including maple, old-growth white oaks, and hemlock. Nearby Evergreen Cemetery is highlighted by the brilliant red and yellow leaves of maple trees. Surrounded by the cityscape of Portland, the wooded cemetery is known for both historic headstones and wooded trails. In the spring, the woods are a refuge for migrating warblers traveling from South America to New England and Canada. As increasing numbers of wetlands and woods are lost to development, migrating birds are losing their rest stops along their migratory routes. Urban parks and green spaces—including cemeteries—can become important oases for migratory birds.
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ISS007-E-17770
Boston: Were astronauts cheering the Red Sox from the International Space Station? Or enjoying New England’s fall colors on a fine fall day in mid October (the red color along the estuary north of Logan airport hints of the fall colors that the region enjoyed)? Or trying to observe Boston’s “Big Dig”, the local transportation project that is now the largest civil engineering project in U.S. history? Regardless of the reason, this image provides a good bird’s-eye view of the center of the city, including famous colonial and independence locations extending from Boston Common to the North End.

Wispy clouds hover over the south end of Logan Airport. Ship traffic in the Charles and Mystic Rivers is marked by the wakes of the ships. And highly reflective construction locations, including the new I-93 and bridge over the Charles River, and highway exchanges at Logan Airport mark new elements of Boston’s Big Dig.

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ISS007-E-13090
Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan: Two capital cities in Pakistan lie next to one another but display land use patterns that are entirely different. Islamabad, with a population of 901,000 (ca. 1998) boasts a master-planned rectangular street pattern nestled against the Margala Hills (top left). The larger Rawalpindi (population 1,406,214 in 1998) lies to the south on the Soan River.

Islamabad has grown rapidly since construction began in 1961. It was created as a new administrative district in Pakistan to be the home of government, the supreme court, and the diplomatic corps. The great white building of the Faisal Mosque appears on the northern margin of the city. By contrast with orthogonal Islamabad, Rawalpindi displays the radial land transportation pattern of many cities with a river flowing through the city center. City blocks are small and growth less controlled than in its newer neighbor. Airports can be seen to the east and south.

Rawalpindi was an important British military center from the mid-1800s during colonial times, and became the interim capital for a decade (1959–69) once the decision was made to move the capital from Karachi inland to be closer to disputed Kashmir and neighboring Muslim countries. Rawalpindi is the headquarters of Pakistan’s army and an administrative, commercial, educational and industrial centre.

View larger image for ISS007-E-18088
ISS007-E-18088
Fires in Southern California: Fires in the San Bernadino Mountains, driven by Santa Ana winds, burned out of control Sunday morning when these images were taken from the International Space Station (ISS) at roughly 11 a.m. PST. Thick yellow smoke blows south, blanketing the valley below. This photgraph, looking southeast, captures the smoke pall as the ISS approached and passed over the region. Lake Arrowhead is the reservoir near the left edge of the photograph.

A mosaic comprised of several photogaphs shows the breadth of the fires. A small break in the smoke near the center of the images marks Cajon pass. The mosaic contains photographs ISS007-E-18086, ISS007-E-18087, and ISS007-E-18088.

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ISS007-E-17557
Autumn nears its end over the northern Rockies. As Increment 7 of the International Space Station draws to its conclusion, so does the fall season over the mountain states of the northwestern US. Winter's first snows have already whitened the higher elevations of the Bitterroot Range (left-center) and the Absaroka Range near Lake Yellowstone (top-center). This view is southeast from over the Snake River Valley towards the Wind River Range with Great Salt Lake and the Uinta Mountains to the lower right.
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