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(NASA Crew Earth Observations)

Photographing the Earth from the International Space Station

Astronaut Photography of Earth - Display Record


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File NameFile Size (bytes)WidthHeightAnnotatedCroppedPurposeComments
View ISS009-E-9954.JPG 31722396253 NASA's Earth Observatory web site
View ISS009-E-9954.JPG 61634639435 No No
View ISS009-E-9954.JPG 79888630322064 No No

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Mission: ISS009 Roll: E Frame: 9954 Mission ID on the Film or image: ISS009
Country or Geographic Name: SPAIN
Center Point: Latitude: 36.0 Longitude: -5.0 (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)

Stereo: (Yes indicates there is an adjacent picture of the same area)


Camera Tilt: 22
Camera Focal Length: 180mm
Camera: E4: Kodak DCS760C Electronic Still Camera
Film: 3060E : 3060 x 2036 pixel CCD, RGBG array.


Film Exposure:
Percentage of Cloud Cover: 25 (11-25)


GMT Date: 20040603 (YYYYMMDD) GMT Time: 122121 (HHMMSS)
Nadir Point Latitude: 37.0, Longitude: -5.8 (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)

Nadir to Photo Center Direction: Southeast
Sun Azimuth: 180 (Clockwise angle in degrees from north to the sun measured at the nadir point)
Spacecraft Altitude: 195 nautical miles (361 km)
Sun Elevation Angle: 76 (Angle in degrees between the horizon and the sun, measured at the nadir point)
Orbit Number: 3617


Solitons, Strait of Gibraltar:
Surf’s up! This image is part of a mosaic of two photographs (ISS009-E-9952 and ISS009-E-9954) taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station viewing large internal waves in the Strait of Gibraltar. These subsurface internal waves occur at depths of about 100 m, but appear in the sunglint as giant swells flowing eastward into the Mediterranean Sea.

The narrow Strait of Gibraltar is the gatekeeper for water exchange between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. A top layer of warm, relatively fresh water from the Atlantic Ocean flows eastward into the Mediterranean Sea. In return, a lower, colder, saltier layer of water flows westward into the North Atlantic ocean. A density boundary separates the layers at about 100 m depth.

Like traffic merging on a highway, the water flow is constricted in both directions because it must pass over a shallow submarine barrier, the Camarinal Sill. When large tidal flows enter the Strait, internal waves (waves at the density boundary layer) are set off at the Camarinal Sill as the high tide relaxes. The waves—sometimes with heights up to 100 m — travel eastward. Even though the waves occur at great depth and the height of the waves at the surface is almost nothing, they can be traced in the sunglint because they concentrate the biological films on the water surface, creating slight differences in roughness.

In this image, the tidal bore creates internal waves (top arrow) that propagate eastward and expand outward into the Mediterranean in a big arc (near bottom). Other features can be traced in the sun’s reflections. Linear and V-shaped patterns (bottom arrow) are wakes of ships, providing evidence for the heavy ship traffic through the narrow waters between Spain and Morocco.

Water features in the sunglint pattern appear to the astronaut to be extremely transient, visible only briefly (a few seconds) as the spacecraft passes rapidly overhead. Photographs from space of the ocean sunglint pattern are a tool for studying physical oceanographic and atmospheric processes and other phenomena that affect surface roughness.

Internal Waves, Strait of Gibraltar
Christopher O. Tiemann, Peter F. Worcester, Bruce D. Cornuelle, Effects of Internal Waves and Bores on Acoustic Transmissions in the Strait of Gibraltar (, Conference Proceedings from Internal Solitary Wave Workshop, Victoria, B.C., Canada, October 1998. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Technical Report WHOI-99-07
Oceanography from the Space Shuttle, Solitons, Gibraltar

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