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Photographing the Earth from the International Space Station

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File NameFile Size (bytes)WidthHeightAnnotatedCroppedPurposeComments
View ISS027-E-34290.JPG 98732640438 No No
View ISS027-E-34290.JPG 266353540311 Yes Yes NASA's Earth Observatory web site
View ISS027-E-34290.JPG 7570221000576 No Yes NASA's Earth Observatory web site
View ISS027-E-34290.JPG 122788642562913 No No

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Mission: ISS027 Roll: E Frame: 34290 Mission ID on the Film or image: ISS027
Country or Geographic Name: OMAN
Center Point: Latitude: 19.1 Longitude: 53.2 (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)

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


Camera Tilt: 13
Camera Focal Length: 200mm
Camera: N5: Nikon D3S
Film: 4256E : 4256 x 2832 pixel CMOS sensor, 36.0mm x 23.9mm, total pixels: 12.87 million, Nikon FX format.


Film Exposure:
Percentage of Cloud Cover: 10 (0-10)


GMT Date: 20110516 (YYYYMMDD) GMT Time: 132127 (HHMMSS)
Nadir Point Latitude: 18.5, Longitude: 53.6 (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)

Nadir to Photo Center Direction: Northwest
Sun Azimuth: 284 (Clockwise angle in degrees from north to the sun measured at the nadir point)
Spacecraft Altitude: 186 nautical miles (344 km)
Sun Elevation Angle: 20 (Angle in degrees between the horizon and the sun, measured at the nadir point)
Orbit Number: 3592


Ar Rub’ al Khali Sand Sea, Arabian Peninsula

The Ar Rub’ al Khali, also known as the “Empty Quarter”, is a large region of sand dunes and interdune flats known as a sand sea (or erg). This astronaut photograph highlights a part of the Ar Rub’ al Khali located close to its southeastern margin in the Sultanate of Oman. Reddish-brown, large linear sand dunes alternate with blue-gray interdune salt flats known as sabkhas at image left. The major trend of the linear dunes is transverse to northwesterly trade winds that originate in Iraq (known as the Shamal winds).

Formation of secondary barchan (crescent-shaped) and star dunes (dune crests in several directions originating from a single point, looking somewhat like a starfish from above) on the linear dunes is supported by southwesterly winds that occur during the monsoon season (Kharif winds). The long linear dunes begin to break up into isolated large star dunes to the northeast and east (image right). This is likely a result of both wind pattern interactions and changes in the sand supply to the dunes.

The Empty Quarter covers much of the south-central portion of the Arabian Peninsula, and with an area of approximately 660,000 km2 it is the largest continuous sand desert on Earth. The Empty Quarter is so called as the dominantly hyperarid climate and difficulty of travel through the dunes has not encouraged permanent settlement within the region. There is geological and archeological evidence to support cooler and wetter past climates in the region together with human settlement. This evidence includes exposed lakebed sediments, scattered stone tools, and the fossils of hippopotamus, water buffalo, and long-horned cattle.

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