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

Spacecraft nadir point: 48.5° S, 138.4° W

Photo center point:

Photo center point by machine learning:

Nadir to Photo Center:

Spacecraft Altitude: 224 nautical miles (415km)
Click for a map
Width Height Annotated Cropped Purpose Links
720 pixels 480 pixels No 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: South Pacific Swirl

This circular cloud formation caught the eye of an astronaut while orbiting over the South Pacific Ocean. Traveling near the southernmost reaches of its orbit, the International Space Station (ISS) was more than 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) east of New Zealand and more than 4,400 kilometers (2,700 miles) west of South America.

The striking colors within the cloud formation are a result of the local sunrise. When the Sun is at a low angle (relative to the atmosphere and ISS), sunlight passes through a thicker slice of the atmosphere. This can enhance the red end of the visible color spectrum, leading to the pink hues visible at the center of the image.

When photos are taken close to the day-night line (also known as the terminator), the sunlight can cast shadows that accentuate contrasting cloud heights and make the sense of circular motion more distinct to the eye. This photo was taken while the astronaut was looking back toward the night hemisphere, so the clouds b=ecome less defined as they fade into the terminator.

The astronaut who took this photograph sent a message from the ISS to ask if this specific cloud formation had been a named tropical cyclone. However, because the weather system was short-lived, the storm dissipated before making landfall, and thus was not named.