ISS035-E-40035

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Spacecraft nadir point: 44.8° N, 34.8° E

Photo center point: 43.5° N, 37.0° E

Nadir to Photo Center: Southeast

Spacecraft Altitude: 222 nautical miles (411km)
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Image Caption: Plankton Bloom, eastern Black Sea

The Black Sea, a large inland water body that connects eastern Europe and Asia Minor, frequently hosts widespread blooms of phytoplankton during the local spring and summer seasons. This astronaut photograph, taken from the International Space Station, highlights a recent plankton bloom in the Black Sea's eastern half. The phytoplankton are visible as blue to turquoise streams and swirls, carried by currents along the coastline and further out towards the middle of the water body. The urban areas of Anapa and Novorossiysk (the largest Russian seaport on the Black Sea) are visible along the northern shoreline as grey-white regions nestled between the sea and uplands hosting limestone quarries.

Phytoplankton occupies the base of most aquatic food chains, and therefore serves as the primary producers in these ecosystems, despite being microscopic in size. The term "phytoplankton" includes a number of organisms - cyanobacteria, diatoms, dinoflagellates, algae, and coccolithophores - that feed larger creatures such as fish and shrimp. The Black Sea receives contributions of freshwater from several river systems including the Danube, Dnieper, Dniester, and Don, but it is also connected to the saline Mediterranean and Marmara Seas. These same river systems can transport urban and agricultural runoff containing nutrients to the Black Sea; these nutrients can be consumed by phytoplankton and lead to blooms.