[Skip to content]
Browse image
Resolutions offered for this image:
1000 x 726 pixels 540 x 392 pixels 720 x 480 pixels 3072 x 2098 pixels 640 x 437 pixels

latitude/longitude of image
Spacecraft nadir point: 16.4° S, 148.0° W

Photo center point: 17.0° S, 149.5° W

Nadir to Photo Center: West

Spacecraft Altitude: 191 nautical miles (354km)
Click for Google map
features and other details
information about camera used
additional formats
Width Height Annotated Cropped Purpose Download Image 
1000 pixels 726 pixels No Yes NASA's Earth Observatory web site Download
540 pixels 392 pixels Yes Yes NASA's Earth Observatory web site Download
720 pixels 480 pixels Yes Yes NASA's Earth Observatory web site Download
3072 pixels 2098 pixels No No Download
640 pixels 437 pixels No No Download
Other options available:
Download Packaged File
Download a Google Earth KML for this Image
View photo footprint information
Image Caption: Tetiaroa Island, French Polynesia

Tetiaroa Island is part of the Society Islands archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean, one of several island clusters in French Polynesia. Tetiaroa is an atoll comprised of thirteen small islets (or motus). This astronaut photograph illustrates the typical circular appearance of a fully developed atoll.

The ring of islands--covered in green vegetation and white-to-tan sandy beaches--develops on coral reefs, which originally form around a volcanic island. As the volcanic island gradually disappears due to subsidence and erosion, the coral reefs continue to grow upwards. Over time, the central volcanic island is completely submerged, leaving a ring of coral reefs and islands that surround a lagoon. The shallow lagoon waters appear blue-green in this image, and contrast with darker and deeper Pacific Ocean waters surrounding the atoll.

One of the motus in the southern portion of the atoll, Tahuna Rahi, is a protected bird sanctuary, and it is the nesting site of red- and brown-footed boobies, frigatebirds, and terns (among other species). Access to the atoll is via boat, as the airstrip was closed in 2004 due to safety and security concerns.

Tetiaroa Island is also known as "Marlon Brando's Island." The late film star purchased the atoll from the French Polynesian government between 1966 and 1967. While the motus were his property, the government retained the rights to the coral reefs and lagoons to preserve control of marine resources. Following Brando's death in 2004, ownership of the approximately 8-kilometer-wide atoll passed into other private hands, and there are now plans to build a luxury resort among the islets.