STS052-153-104

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Spacecraft nadir point: 23.0° N, 79.8° W

Photo center point: 25.0° N, 78.0° W

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Nadir to Photo Center: Northeast

Spacecraft Altitude: 158 nautical miles (293km)
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Image Caption: Bahamas
This photograph provides a rare opportunity to observe a
natural chemical laboratory at work. Limestone of a quite
different sort from that forming the Great Barrier Reef is
actually in the process of formation. Many of the Bahama
islands are little more than sandbars rising just a few
meters above sea level but it separates the deep, dark blue
waters of the Atlantic on the fight from the approximately
10-meter (33 feet) shallows of the Great Bahama Bank.
Details of the topography of the bank are visible through
the clear waters.
The shallow waters are warm and become extremely salty.
Crystals of aragonite, a calcium carbonate mineral, are
precipitated and formed into spherical sand-sized oolites as
the tidal currents swirl back and forth. Lithification of
the carbonate sands produces an oolitic limestone. Although
the water is warm and clear, corals do not live in the
shallows, probably because of the elevated salt content.
Although chemically similar, the oolitic limestone forming
the Bahama Islands is very different from coral reef
limestone.