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ISS058-E-11388
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Spacecraft nadir point: 36.7° N, 0.7° W

Photo center point: 33.0° N, 5.5° W

Nadir to Photo Center: Southwest

Spacecraft Altitude: 216 nautical miles (400km)
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Image Caption: Wet and Dry Morocco

An astronaut on board the International Space Station shot this oblique photograph while looking out across Morocco, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean at the Strait of Gibraltar. The centerpiece of the image is the Atlas Mountains, which stretch 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) through Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Westerly winds from the Atlantic Ocean carry moisture into the region, but the mountains act as a weather barrier between the coastal grasslands and wetlands and the Sahara Desert. The Atlas Range causes a rain shadow effect, preventing the areas beyond the mountains from receiving much rainfall. During the winter months, the highest peaks of the Atlas Mountains are among the few parts of Africa to see snow.

The wetter regions along the Moroccan coastline include many Ramsar "Wetlands of International Importance" which serve as wintering sites for migratory waterbirds.

Beyond the mountains, the dry climate of Morocco's deserts creates an advantageous landscape for meteorite hunting. Strong winds and the lack of plant cover expose dark-colored meteorites and craters, which stand out against the light-colored sand. The dry climate preserves extraterrestrial rocks far better than a humid climate.

One of the most well-known space rocks found in Morocco is the Tissint meteorite that fell to Earth in 2011. This pristine Martian meteorite displays evidence of aqueous weathering - suggesting the presence of liquid water - and contains chemical elements originating from Mars soil.