[Skip to content]
Browse image
Resolutions offered for this image:
1000 x 736 pixels 540 x 397 pixels 540 x 405 pixels 3032 x 2008 pixels 639 x 423 pixels

latitude/longitude of image
Spacecraft nadir point: 51.5° N, 7.2° W

Photo center point: 53.1° N, 9.2° W

Nadir to Photo Center: Northwest

Spacecraft Altitude: 176 nautical miles (326km)
Click for Google map
features and other details
information about camera used
additional formats
Width Height Annotated Cropped Purpose Download Image 
1000 pixels 736 pixels No Yes NASA's Earth Observatory web site Download
540 pixels 397 pixels Yes Yes NASA's Earth Observatory web site Download
540 pixels 405 pixels Yes Yes NASA's Earth Observatory web site Download
3032 pixels 2008 pixels No No Download
639 pixels 423 pixels No No Download
Other options available:
Download Packaged File
Download a Google Earth KML for this Image
View photo footprint information
Image Caption: Burren Plateau, County Clare, Ireland

Adjoining Galway Bay to the north, the Burren (from the Gaelic for "stony place") Plateau is a example of karst terrain. Karst terrain is generally formed when sedimentary rocks are dissolved by groundwater. Most karst occurs in limestones or dolostones - rocks made primarily from the minerals calcite or dolomite. Groundwater and surface water moves through fractures in the rock, dissolving it over time, forming voids and channels. As the voids grow and connect, greater dissolution of the rock occurs; when overlying rock and soil can no longer be supported, collapse features such as sinkholes form. Over time, this can turn an originally flat landscape into one with significant topography.

This astronaut photograph illustrates the northwestern-most portion of the Burren Plateau, characterized by the distinctive bare exposures of almost horizontal, layered Paleozoic limestone (light gray, with brown concentric banding) that form Gleninagh Mountain at image center. At 345 meters above sea level, Slieve Elva (image lower left) - capped with younger dark brown shale and bordered by dark green vegetation - is the highest point on the Plateau. The rounded character of limestone hills and intervening valleys of Gleninagh Mountain are the result of both dissolution of the limestone by water, and removal of loose material by past glaciers.

A very thin cloud cover is visible over Gleninagh Mountain. Despite the barren character of this portion of the Burren Plateau, thin soils are present and the area is used for grazing of cattle during the wintertime. Numerous small springs - another hallmark of karst terrain, as surface streams tend to disappear underground via fractures - provide water for both cattle and human use in this otherwise dry landscape.