ISS007 Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Photographic Highlights

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ISS007-E-16813
Honolulu: The Expedition 7 crew on the International Space Station is set to come home to Earth in about a week. Crew member Ed Lu considers Honolulu to be his hometown, and the view from a recent overpass clearly inspired him to photograph the city.

Honolulu is striking for the way it is bound by surrounding geography. Built-up fingers of the city extend northeast onto the steep volcanic slopes and surround the volcanic craters of Punchbowl and Diamond Head, leaving undeveloped only parklands and the steepest ridges. They are both tuff cones that formed as magma from the erupting volcano came in contact with ground water at a time when sea levels were higher than they are now. As the water turned to steam, it caused an explosion that formed a hill of ash with a broad crater in the center.

In Hawaiian, Punchbowl Crater was known as Pu’owaina, or, “Hill of Sacrifice,” and was a site of royal burials. Punchbowl is also the site of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The area includes over 38,000 graves of U.S. service men and women beginning with casualties of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Ellison Onizuka, one of the Space Shuttle Challenger crew killed in 1986, is also buried there.

Diamond Head was called Le’ahi in Hawaiian or “Brow of the yellowfin tuna (ahi)”. British sailors in the 1700s saw calcite crystals sparking on the crater and gave it its English name. One of the major “must see” tourist destinations on Oahu, Diamond Head is managed as a Hawaii State Monument, and plans are in place to reduce vehicle traffic and restore the natural vegetation.

View larger image for ISS007-E-15177
ISS007-E-15177
Coastal Dunes, Brazil: The area shown here (10 km across) is a small part of the dune field which is now protected as the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, on Brazil’s north coast, about 700 km east of the Amazon River mouth. Persistent winds blow off the equatorial Atlantic Ocean onto Brazil from the east, driving white sand inland from the 100 km stretch of coast (upper margin of the image), to form a large field of dunes. The strongly regular pattern of these dunes is a common characteristic of dune fields. The basic shape of each sand mass, repeated throughout the view, is a crescent-shaped dune. In an area with a rich supply of sand such as coastal Brazil, individual crescents coalesce to form entire chains many miles long. The wind strength and supply of sand are sufficient to keep the dunes active, and thus free of vegetation, despite 1500 mm (60 inches) of rainfall annually. The dark areas between the white dunes are fresh water ponds that draw fisherman to this newly established park.

The characteristic regularity of the dune landscape can be detected downwind (west) for more than 100 km, beyond the present dune field. Now covered by dense forest, the greater extent of this dune field indicates that climates have been substantially drier at the Equator in the recent geological past.

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ISS007-E-15222
Toquepala Copper Mine, Southern Peru: The rugged, mineral-rich Andes support some of the world’s biggest mines (gold, silver, copper, and more). This image looks down the bull’s-eye of Peru’s Toquepala copper mine, a steep sided and stepped open-pit mine. Mid-afternoon sunlight on the arid slopes of the central Andes mountains provides an accent to the mine contours. At the surface the open pit is 6.5 km across and it descends more than 3000 m into the earth. A dark line on the wall of the pit is the main access road to the bottom. Spoil dumps of material mined from the pit are arranged in tiers along the northwest lip of the pit. Numerous angular leaching fields appear lower right, and the railroad to the coast is a line that exits the image center left. The railroad was built to export Toquepala’s copper and connects the coastal port of Ilo, 95 km to the southwest.
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ISS007-E-15149
Johannesburg, South Africa: Why are cities established where they are? How do local economies and politics influence patterns of human settlement and development at such a grand scale that these patterns can be identified from space? This photograph of Johannesburg, South Africa, taken from the International Space Station illustrates the human geography of the region.

In this case, the cityscape of Johannesburg is the most difficult pattern to discern. The center of Johannesburg is the fine-grained pattern (created by shadows cast from the high rise buildings in the city) in the center of this mosaic. On the southern fringe of Johannesburg is a line of light colored, angular patches stretching across the scene. These patches are the great “mine dumps” (an example is arrowed), the crushed rock that remains after gold extraction from numerous gold mines. These are the mines that underpinned the South African economy for decades, and their dumps, or tailing piles, are the visuals that orbiting crews see when they overfly Johannesburg and neighboring cities, delineating the east-west outcrop of the gold–rich rock strata discovered in 1886. Some mine dumps are so large that an outdoor movie theater was located on one of them. Neighboring industrial cities are nestled among the mine dumps as far as the edges of the photograph. Older mine dumps nearer the Johannesburg city center have disappeared from view in the last 25 years, having been re-mined for the gold that remained within them.

The green zone (top right) is the leafy northern suburbs, where hundreds of square miles of grassland have been progressively forested since Johannesburg was founded in 1886. Small light patches within the tree-rich zone are satellite businesses and shopping centers, typical of any major western city. By contrast, a major ghetto (established by the former South African government) typical of developing-world urban migration, appears as the grey zone lower left (the famous Soweto Township). Soweto appears largely treeless except for protected valley bottoms.

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ISS007-E-14867
Noumea, New Caledonia: New Caledonia represents a nexus of cultures and resources. At its center is Grande Terre, the third largest island in the Pacific. The indigenous population is Melanesian, with a Polynesian minority, but New Caledonia remains a French territory. A prime tourist destination, the island supports the second largest barrier reef in the world (over 1300 km long) with one of the highest levels of biodiversity. See a Space Shuttle photograph of northern Grande Terre.

The mountains forming the spine of the island of Grande Terre contain large reserves of nickel and chromium, and New Caledonia mines are one of the world’s greatest producers of nickel. The combination of natural resources provides unique opportunities for understanding the impact of heavy development. Open mining activity leads to sedimentation in streams and estuaries as well as high concentrations of transition metals (chromium and nickel)—all of which can affect the health of reefs and reef organisms.

This image shows details of New Caledonia’s main city, Noumea, which is built on a peninsula that juts into the lagoon on the southwest side of the island. The reefs here face localized problems from pollution and overfishing. The tourism industry is very important to the economy of Noumea, with extensive hotel development in the city and along the southeast coast of Grand Terre. The picture shows how urban development extends to the steep slopes of the coastal hills.

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ISS007-E-14361
Victoria Falls, Zambezi River: Victoria Falls is one of the most famous tourist sites in subsaharan Africa. Details of the Falls are visible in this image taken with the 800 mm lens by Astronaut Edward Lu from the Space Station on September 4, 2003.

A major river in south-central Africa, the Zambezi River flows from western Zambia to the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. In the sector imaged here, it flows southeast (top left to bottom right) in a wide bed before plunging suddenly 130 meters over the Victoria Falls into a narrow gorge. The falls and their famous spray clouds are 1700 m long, the longest sheet of falling water in the world. The falls appear as a ragged white line. The small town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe appears just west (left) of the falls, with smaller tourist facilities on the east bank in Zambia. The international railroad bridge over the second gorge (between Zimbabwe and Zambia) can be seen in the detailed view on the bottom (arrow).

The positions of the falls are controlled by linear fault lines in the underlying basalt rocks. The falls have moved upstream (bottom to top) by intense river erosion, elongating the zig-zag gorge in the process. Prior positions of the strongly linear falls can be detected. The earliest on this cropped view may have been the longest (dashed line). The zig-zags represent subsequent positions, all with the characteristic water-worn lip on the upstream side. The falls will continue to erode northward.

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ISS007-E-14745
Hurricane Isabel: Astronaut Ed Lu snapped this photo of the eye of Hurricane Isabel from the International Space Station on September 13, 2003 at 11:18 UTC. At the time, Isabel was located about 450 miles northeast of Puerto Rico. It had dropped to a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, packing winds of 150 miles per hour with gusts up to 184 miles per hour.

After originating in the eastern Atlantic west of the Cape Verde Islands, Isabel became the second major hurricane of the 2003 Atlantic season when it was declared a Category 3 storm by the National Hurricane Center on September 8. Over the next four days, Isabel strengthened into an extremely powerful Category 5 hurricane with winds estimated at 160 mph before dropping to a Category 4 hurricane on September 13.

This photo shows the structure of Isabel's eyewall. The image, ISS007-E-14745, was taken with a 180mm lens on a digital camera.

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ISS007-E-14750
Hurricane Isabel: Astronaut Ed Lu captured this broad-view photograph of Hurricane Isabel from the International Space Station on September 13, 2003, at 11:19 UTC. At the time, Isabel was located about 450 miles northeast of Puerto Rico and packed winds of 150 miles per hour with gusts up to 184 miles per hour. The image, ISS007-E-14750, was taken with a 50 mm lens on a digital camera.
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ISS007-E-14881
Hurricane Isabel: Astronaut Ed Lu captured this image of the eye of Hurricane Isabel as he passed overhead in the International Space Station on September 15, 2003. The storm had weakened somewhat, but still maintained its status as a Category 4 hurricane.

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ISS007-E-14887
Hurricane Isabel: From his vantage point high above the earth in the International Space Station, Astronaut Ed Lu captured this broad view of Hurricane Isabel. The image, ISS007-E-14887, was taken with a 50 mm lens on a digital camera.

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