Astronaut Photography

Fires in British Columbia
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Fires in British Columbia

This image taken by the crew of the International Space Station on August 20, 2003, illustrates how smoke has become trapped in valleys. Normally air temperature decreases with altitude; in other words, the higher up you are, the colder it is. Warmer, more buoyant air near the surface of the Earth usually rises into the atmosphere, carrying away air pollutants such as smoke. However, sometimes the “higher equals colder” relationship breaks down, for example, here in the northern Rockies, where light winds and cold air drainage from the higher elevations have created “temperature inversions,” making the air in the valley colder and denser than the air at the mountain peaks.

Published Sep 24, 2003

Atmosphere Land Fires

Victoria Falls, Zambezi River
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Victoria Falls, Zambezi River

Victoria Falls, on the Zambezi River, is one of the most famous tourist sites in subsaharan Africa. Details of the Falls are visible in this image taken with the 800 mm lens by Astronaut Edward Lu from the Space Station on September 4, 2003. The positions of the falls are controlled by linear fault lines in the underlying basalt rocks. The falls have moved upstream (bottom to top) by intense river erosion, elongating the zig-zag gorge in the process. Prior positions of the strongly linear falls can be detected. The earliest on this cropped view may have been the longest (dashed line). The zig-zags represent subsequent positions, all with the characteristic water-worn lip on the upstream side. The falls will continue to erode northward.

Published Sep 22, 2003

Image of the Day Land

Hurricane Isabel
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Hurricane Isabel

From his vantage point high above the earth in the International Space Station, Astronaut Ed Lu captured this broad view of Hurricane Isabel.

Published Sep 16, 2003

Atmosphere Water Severe Storms

Hurricane Isabel
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Hurricane Isabel

Astronaut Ed Lu captured this image of the eye of Hurricane Isabel as he passed overhead in the International Space Station on September 15, 2003. The storm had weakened somewhat, but still maintained its status as a Category 4 hurricane.

Published Sep 16, 2003

Atmosphere Water Severe Storms

Hurricane Isabel
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Hurricane Isabel

Astronaut Ed Lu snapped this photo of the eye of Hurricane Isabel from the International Space Station on September 13, 2003 at 11:18 UTC. At the time, Isabel was located about 450 miles northeast of Puerto Rico. It had dropped to a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, packing winds of 150 miles per hour with gusts up to 184 miles per hour. This photo reveals the structure of Isabel’s eyewall.

Published Sep 16, 2003

Image of the Day Atmosphere Water Severe Storms

Hurricane Isabel
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Hurricane Isabel

Astronaut Ed Lu captured this broad-view photograph of Hurricane Isabel from the International Space Station on September 13, 2003. At the time, Isabel was located about 450 miles northeast of Puerto Rico and packed winds of 150 miles per hour with gusts up to 184 miles per hour.

Published Sep 15, 2003

Atmosphere Water Severe Storms

Merapi Volcano, Java
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Merapi Volcano, Java

At 2,911 meters, the summit of Merapi Volcano and its vigorous steam plume rises above a bank of stratus clouds on its southern flank on August 24, 2003. One of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, it has been almost continuously active for nearly ten years, including periodic pyroclastic flows (hot ash and rock debris) and avalanches. The volcano is located less than 25 miles north of the city of Yogykarta in central Java. More than 50,000 people live adjacent the treacherous southwestern slope, where volcanic material often sloughs from the unstable summit. Note the deep ravines on the eastern slopes providing rich soils and moisture to the agriculture below.

Published Sep 15, 2003

Image of the Day Atmosphere Heat Land Life

Hurricane Fabian
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Hurricane Fabian

Astronauts on board the International Space Station photographed Hurricane Fabian on September 4, 2003 as it churned towards Bermuda. At the time the photo was taken, Fabian had maximum sustained winds of 120 mph and was moving to the north-northwest at 12 mph.

Published Sep 8, 2003

Atmosphere Water Severe Storms

Egypt’s Great Pyramids of Giza
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Egypt’s Great Pyramids of Giza

All astronauts are interested in observing unique human footprints from space, and especially those reflecting thousands of years of human activities. The region of the Great Pyramids of Giza—the last remaining wonder of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—is a favorite target. Although the pyramids have been imaged many times before by astronauts, each new image provides a unique look at the archeological monument, depending on the viewing angle from the ISS and the illumination from the sun. In this view, the shadows from afternoon sun provide directional arrows that point east. For scale, the current length of the large pyramid at the base is 227 meters (745 feet), and the height is 137 meters (449 feet).

Published Sep 7, 2003

Image of the Day Land Life

Southwestern Ireland as seen from the International Space Station
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Southwestern Ireland as seen from the International Space Station

This broad view from the International Space Station shows the relationship between valleys, mountains, and the major towns. Near Killarney are ancient oak and yew forests.

Published Aug 31, 2003

Image of the Day Land

Austin, Texas
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Austin, Texas

It was Texas hot when this view of the capital city of Austin was taken in late July by astronaut Ed Lu. Adding to the rising temperatures were heated debates in the Texas Capitol Building, where a special session had convened. Eleven senate Democrats thwarted a redistricting vote by disappearing from the state. Were Lu, and his Expedition 7 partner Yuri Malenchenko looking for the missing Democrats? We’ll never know. Astronauts have always enjoyed observing cities around the world. These images of Austin provide a 2003 baseline for monitoring its regional development and growth.

Published Aug 24, 2003

Image of the Day Land Life

Changes in the Mamore River, Bolivia
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Changes in the Mamore River, Bolivia

The Mamore River drains north from the Andes Mts. in lowland Bolivia. An image taken in July 2003 from the International Space Station (ISS007-E-10797, 14 June 2003, 12:36 GMT) shows an 85 km stretch of the river south of the lowland town of Trinidad in the Beni Province. Numerous changes in river pattern are visible in the decade since Landsat imagery of the same area was acquired.

Published Aug 18, 2003

Image of the Day Land

Noctilucent Clouds
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Noctilucent Clouds

An astronaut on the ISS caught a glimpse of a sliver of the setting Moon and some clouds that shine at night.

Published Aug 10, 2003

Image of the Day Atmosphere

Îles Glorieuses
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Îles Glorieuses

The Îles Eparses (scattered islets) dot the Indian Ocean to the west and north of Madagascar. The islands were protected by the French government in 1975 because of their importance for turtles and seabird nesting. This astronaut photograph, taken on June 17, 2001, from the International Space Station, shows details of the reefs surrounding Îles Glorieuses, one group in the Îles Eparses. The image was used to plan the 2002–03 field expeditions conducted by Agence pour la Recherche et la Valorisation Marines.

Published Aug 3, 2003

Image of the Day Land Life Water

Salt Lake City, Utah
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Salt Lake City, Utah

This regional view of Salt Lake City, photographed on 14 June 2003 from the International Space Station, shows the city and its suburbs nestled between the Wasatch Front and the Great Salt Lake.

Published Jul 27, 2003

Image of the Day Land Life

Peruvian Valleys
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Peruvian Valleys

Some of the deepest canyons in the world cut west to the Pacific from the high crest of the Andes Mountains in Peru. This dramatic image taken from the International Space Station provides a birds-eye view down the canyons of the Rio Camana and the Rio Ocona. The low early morning sun highlights the extreme topography created by rapidly uplifting mountains and powerful water erosion by water dropping nearly 10,000 feet (more than 3000 m) in this view. At the edge of the image is the snowy flanks of Nevado Coropuna, the highest mountain in the Cordillera Occidental (6613 meters).

Published Jul 20, 2003

Image of the Day Land

Hurricane Claudette
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Hurricane Claudette

The crew of the International Space Station had a great seat from which to observe tropical storm Claudette as it became a Category I hurricane. The storm came ashore with high winds up to 80 miles per hour and heavy rains that also drenched their Houston home base and the Coastal Bend of Texas.

Published Jul 18, 2003

Atmosphere Water Severe Storms

Palm Island Resort
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Palm Island Resort

The Islands were constructed on reclaimed land off of Dubai’s Persian Gulf coast.

Published Jul 13, 2003

Image of the Day Land Water

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
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Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

In 2003 the world celebrated a century of human flight with the one hundredth anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station share a kindred spirit of flight accomplishments and commemorated the centennial celebration with this image of Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Kitty Hawk is located on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The Wrights used the Outer Banks’ prevailing winds and the altitude gained by climbing a 90-foot hill (Kill Devil Hill) to successfully demonstrate powered flight. The large circle on the image is a road ringing Kill Devil Hill, now part of the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

Published Jul 6, 2003

Image of the Day Land

Dust Storm over the Southern Red Sea
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Dust Storm over the Southern Red Sea

Which came first, the clouds or the dust? Both clouds and dust can be important factors influencing regional climate, and they are frequently observed together. In this view taken from the International Space Station, two images were merged to create a mosaic of a dust storm and thunderstorm over the Red Sea. By interpreting the mosaic, we make a guess about which came first.

Published Jun 29, 2003

Image of the Day Atmosphere

Lights along the Nile
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Lights along the Nile

City lights define the Nile River Valley as it snakes across the Egyptian desert. The cities of Naj’ Hamadi, Qena, and Luxor, shine the brightest. Communities in the hillsides create a thin border along either side of the valley. Simliar strips line the Nile itself. Most of Egypt’s population, and most of the country’s arable land, occupies the Nile River Valley.

Published Jun 25, 2003

Image of the Day Land Life

Omaha and Council Bluffs on the Lewis and Clark Trail
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Omaha and Council Bluffs on the Lewis and Clark Trail

The Missouri River served as a vital waterway for transport of the epic Lewis and Clark Expedition. In the vicinity of Omaha, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, this mighty river meanders southward through a broad floodplain some two to eight miles wide, bordered by dissected bluffs. In late July 1804, the expedition paused to rest and repair their boats and planned the “first” Native American council (Council Bluff) with representatives of the Otoe Tribe.

Published Jun 22, 2003

Image of the Day Land

Gosses Bluff Impact Crater, Northern Territory, Australia
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Gosses Bluff Impact Crater, Northern Territory, Australia

This image shows Gosses Bluff, an impact crater sandwiched between the Macdonnell Range to the north and the James Range to the south in Australia’s Northern Territory—it is about 160 km west of Alice Springs. It is one of the most studied of the Australian impact craters. The impactor, an asteroid or comet, was probably about 1 km in diameter and crashed into the earth about 142 million years ago.

Published Jun 15, 2003

Image of the Day Land

Beijing, China
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Beijing, China

This image of Beijing was taken from the Space Shuttle five years ago (in late April-early May 1998), and is one of the best photographs of the city taken from orbit.

Published Jun 8, 2003

Image of the Day Land Life

Kulunda Steppe, Western Siberia, Russia
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Kulunda Steppe, Western Siberia, Russia

>The dark spikes slashing across this agricultural area between the Ob River and the Irtysh River (out of the view left) form a familiar visual cue for astronauts that they are flying over Western Siberia. The signature pattern across the center is made by forests in a great plain that has been folded by tectonic forces—the surface rock layers form a long series of gentle folds aligned NE-SW. The lower zones are darker because the snow disappears through the Scotch pine trees. The higher areas are occupied by numerous angular fields of the steppe, etched by snow.

Published Jun 1, 2003

Image of the Day Land

How Does Anthropogenic Haze Influence Climate?
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How Does Anthropogenic Haze Influence Climate?

Greenhouse gases act broadly to warm the atmosphere, but human-induced aerosols (particles in the atmosphere) generate negative forcings—that is cooling of the atmosphere by reflection of the sun’s energy away from Earth. This photograph from the Space Shuttle, featured in an article in Science magazine, shows haze from China spread over the Pacific Ocean, on March 4, 1996. In the Science article, Anderson and coworkers point out that greenhouse gas forcing on climate is fairly well understood, but the effect of aerosols is not.

Published May 25, 2003

Image of the Day Atmosphere

First Recorded Eruption of Anatahan Volcano
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First Recorded Eruption of Anatahan Volcano

On the night of May 10, the Anatahan Volcano announced itself with a vigorous eruption that sent high-level ash over a wide area. About 12 hours later, on May 11 at 00:19 GMT, the crew of the International Space Station observed and photographed this ash plume, describing it as huge.

Published May 18, 2003

Image of the Day Atmosphere Land Volcanoes

Above and Under the Red Sea
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Above and Under the Red Sea

This unique photograph of shallow Red Sea waters off the coast of Saudi Arabia gives us a glimpse of both the coral reefs under the surface, and the texture and movements of surface waters. On the left side of the image we see through the water column to the reefs below the surface. On the right side of the image, the sun reflects off of microscopic oily films formed by a combination of natural biological sources and human activities on the sea surface. The films are concentrated by surface water movements and variably dampen surface capillary waves, which effect how the sun’s light is reflected. This creates patterns of brighter and darker reflections when viewed from orbit. These patterns trace the complex surface water dynamics along the coast.

Published May 11, 2003

Image of the Day Water

Sao Paulo, Brazil, at Night
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Sao Paulo, Brazil, at Night

A favorite activity of astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station is looking at the city lights below when the Station crosses the Earth’s dark side. The lights outline the densest population centers and coastlines, and suggest cultural patterns. Taking these low-light images using the equipment on board the Station has been challenging to the crew members because of the long exposure times required. Astronaut Don Pettit has pioneered an approach using a home-made tracking system to track the ground as it moves relative to the Station, allowing him to acquire long-exposure images under low light conditions. This image shows the sprawling urban footprint of São Paulo, Brazil, South America’s largest city with roughly 17 million people. The different colors (pink, white, and gray) define different types and generations of street lights.

Published May 4, 2003

Image of the Day Land Life Human Presence

Smog in the Northern Adriatic Sea
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Smog in the Northern Adriatic Sea

The boot of Italy crosses the image in this southwest-looking view taken by the crew of the International Space Station.

Published Apr 27, 2003

Image of the Day Atmosphere