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Spacecraft nadir point: 10.6° N, 38.0° E

Photo center point: 11.9° N, 37.3° E

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Spacecraft Altitude: 220 nautical miles (407km)
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Image Caption: Dek Island in Lake Tana, Ethiopia

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this colorful photograph of Dek and Daga Islands in Lake Tana in the Amhara Region of the Ethiopian Highlands. Dek Island (7 kilometers, 4.4 miles, from north to south) is the largest island in Lake Tana. Both islands are volcanic in origin, as is the Lake itself. Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia and acts as the headwaters of the Blue Nile River. The dark green areas are patches of forest while the lighter-toned and darker salmon-colored patches are agricultural fields. The murky green color of the water results from algal blooms (that live on nutrients supplied from fertilizing fields, wastewater, and other sources of runoff that create nutrient pollution). This long-lens image illustrates the level of detail possible from handheld digital camera photographs taken from the ISS--the numerous small white specks are the reflective tin roofs of houses and buildings.

Agricultural fields make up over 70% of Dek Island. This is a prime area for farming because of high-quality volcanic soils and heavy rains related to its location in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Some of the more common crops are corn and millet that are consumed mostly by the islanders. Coffee and mangos are the economic mainstay, being shipped to the markets on the mainland.

Both islands are home to men-only monasteries of the Coptic Church, most famously the monastery of Narga Selassie on Dek Island and Dega Estefanos on Dega Island. For hundreds of years the islands have helped protect the monasteries during times of war. Dega Estefanos is the resting place of mummified emperors who ruled Ethiopia (also known as Abyssinia) centuries ago.