Browse image
Resolutions offered for this image:
5568 x 3712 pixels 720 x 480 pixels 5568 x 3712 pixels 640 x 427 pixels
Cloud masks available for this image:
Binary Heatmap

Spacecraft nadir point: 15.1° S, 172.9° W

Photo center point: 14.0° S, 172.0° W

Photo center point by machine learning:

Nadir to Photo Center: Northeast

Spacecraft Altitude: 220 nautical miles (407km)
Click for a map
Width Height Annotated Cropped Purpose Links
5568 pixels 3712 pixels No No NASA's Earth Observatory web site Download Image
720 pixels 480 pixels Yes No NASA's Earth Observatory web site Download Image
5568 pixels 3712 pixels No No Download Image
640 pixels 427 pixels No No Download Image
Other options available:
Download Packaged File
Download a Google Earth KML for this Image
View photo footprint information
Download a GeoTIFF for this photo
Image Caption: Savai'i and Upolu in Sunglint

This photograph, taken from the International Space Station as it passed over the South Pacific Ocean, captures the two largest Samoan Islands as they were highlighted by the optical effect of sunglint.

Savai'i, the westernmost Samoan Island, is 80 kilometers (50 miles) long; Upolu is nearly as long (74 kilometers/46 miles). The dark green centers of the islands reflect the denser tropical forests and higher elevations in comparison to the lower, light-green coastal regions around the edges.

The top of Mount Silisili, an active volcano, forms the center of Savai'i and is the highest point at 1,858 meters (6,095 feet). Savai'i's elevation likely contributes to a wind shadow on the west side of the island; this shows up as a region with no sunglint, indicating a smooth water surface. Upolu's highest point, Mount Fito, reaches 1,100 meters (3,608 feet).

The narrow stretch of water separating the islands is known as Apolima Strait. Coral reef ecosystems surround the islands and appear as light-blue regions due to shallow water depths. (These are reminiscent of the waters surrounding the Bahamas.) While ferries and ships use the Apolima Strait for tourism and commerce, swimmers also sometimes race across the strait, which is about 22 kilometers (14 miles) wide.

Both islands are volcanic in origin, with nutrient-rich basaltic soils that are good for farming. According to the 2015 Report by the Samoa Agriculture Survey, 97 percent of Samoan households grow crops; of these, 60 to 70 percent grow taro root or coconuts. Located on the north side of Upolu, Apia is the capital of Samoa and the center for export and commerce of these crops.