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Spacecraft nadir point: 31.9° N, 105.9° W

Photo center point: 31.8° N, 106.5° W

Nadir to Photo Center: West

Spacecraft Altitude: 221 nautical miles (409km)
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Image Caption: El Paso, USA and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Flying over the border between Mexico and the US, crew aboard the International Space Station photographed these sister cities on the Rio Grande--that combined make up the second largest metropolitan area (population of 2.7 million) on the Mexico-US border. The river crosses the image as a prominent line and acts as the international border upper left.

The name El Paso has been used for hundreds of years to indicate a gap in the mountains cut by the Rio Grande (known as the Rio Bravo del Norte in Mexico). This small gorge divides the Franklin Mountains within the US (image right) from hills in Mexico where the prominent Sierra Cristo Rey is topped by a statue of Christ. The gorge has been important for transportation for centuries. Railroads reached El Paso in the early 1880s. The transcontinental interstate highway--that joins the Atlantic coast in Florida to the west coast in southern California--also cuts through the gap in downtown El Paso.

Cityscapes are subtly different on each side of the border as seen from space. For example, wider streets and a more regular street grid are visible in the city of El Paso as compared to Juarez. The city centers lie close to the river opposite one another (image left center) with large residential areas covering the arid slopes in the rest of the scene.