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Puzzles of the Earth from the height of the space satellite

Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника

Earth Observatory (Earth Observatory) - the most important public project of NASA. Through this online resource, the US space agency makes public satellite imagery and other scientific information.

Every year, site visitors vote for the best images of the Earth. Tournament Earth Competition is held in four categories: important events, scientific information, photographs and photo art.

In 2015, Icelandic volcanoes and the darkness of the night in North Korea, leaf fall on a planetary scale and wind turbines at the mouth of the Thames River fought for the palm. The winner was the picture of the Pitsyan Fault in northeastern China: a living illustration of the multi-million geological history of the Earth in several multi-colored stripes.

Lava flows on the plateau Holuhrein

Потоки лавы на плато Холухрейн - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: Jesse Allen / NASA Earth Observatory

The eruption of the Icelandic volcano Bardarbunga began in August 2014. The Operational Land Imager tool on Landsat 8 satellite is shooting in infrared radiation of different wavelengths. In this pseudo-color image, the plume of vapor and sour gas has a bright blue tint, and the water is blue. The rocks around the lava field are painted in shades of green and brown, and the fresh lava is red and orange. In natural color, this landscape looks much more austere. Such heat-sensitive imaging techniques allow scientists to estimate the area of ​​lava flows, the rate of lava flow to the surface, and the content of sulfur dioxide in the plume of gases. In the picture presented, for example, you can see how the lava tongues are pulled out to the surface in order to merge into a single stream.

Particles of Africa fly to America

Частицы Африки летят в Америку - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: Norman Kuring / NASA Earth Observatory

East wind carries clouds of Saharan sand toward America - June 2014. The composite image was created using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite tool from the meteorological satellite Suomi NPP. Recently, scientists have found that nutrients from the Sahara provide fertility to the Amazon jungle. The wind raises a plume of dust and sand over the Sahara, which then travels thousands of kilometers to the west, settling in South America. This dust plume contains several thousand tons of phosphorus (from the bottom of the dry Lake Chad), which is extremely poor in soil in the basin of the great river.

Let all the flowers bloom ... electricity

Пусть расцветают все цветы... электричества - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: JSC / NASA

The peaceful struggle between different types of light bulbs (LED and incandescent, for example) is visible even from space. In the picture of the Tsushima Strait, which separates Japan from South Korea, we see a flotilla of fishing vessels. Sailors lure Pacific squids with bright blue xenon lamps. The lights of Korean cities have an orange tint — sodium discharge lamps are more commonly used to illuminate the streets. In Japan, however, prefer greenish mercury. The photograph was taken by a member of the crew of the 37th expedition to the International Space Station on October 11, 2013.

Border of Kazakhstan and China

Граница Казахстана и Китая - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: Robert Simmon / NASA Earth Observatory

A vivid illustration of the contrast of the socio-economic structure is the border between Kazakhstan and China in the area of ​​the city of Chuguchak. Chinese lands are intensively cultivated and irrigated (green), otherwise the country’s population of 1.5 billion people, where only 11.62 percent of the territory is suitable for cultivation, cannot be fed. Fields in the few Kazakhstani farms (heirs of the Soviet collective farms and state farms) are irrigated only by rain and hardly stand out against the background of the surrounding landscape. Image obtained at NASA on September 9, 2013 based on data from Landsat satellites.

Lightning: top view

Молния: вид сверху - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: ISS / NASA

Lightning occurs on Earth about 50 times per second, that is, 4.3 million times a day and 1.5 billion times a year. In order to observe this phenomenon in detail, in August 2013, scientists installed the Firestation tool onboard the ISS. There are photometers for measuring flashes of lightning, and radio antennas for measuring the strength of atmospheric discharges, and, finally, a gamma-ray detector. It is on the gamma-ray bursts in the upper atmosphere that Firestation finds lightning. This picture was taken on board the ISS on December 12, 2013: a bright flash of lightning is visible in the desert, between the cities of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Aral Sea in 2000

Аральское море в 2000 году - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: Jesse Allen / NASA Earth Observatory

Aral Sea in 2000.

Aral Sea in 2014

Аральское море в 2014 году - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: Jesse Allen / NASA Earth Observatory

The summer of 2014 was marked by another tragic stage of the drying of the Aral Sea: for the first time in modern history, the eastern basin of the southern part of the reservoir has completely evaporated. Images obtained with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer tool from the Terra satellite in 2000 and 2014. The black contour marks the coastline of the 1960s. The Aral Sea dried up due to the fact that in the second half of the 20th century the water flow, which was formed mainly due to the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers, was actually “zeroed out” - the water was taken for the needs of agriculture. As a result, the Aral Sea decreased four times in terms of area, and ten times in terms of the volume of water, breaking up into three reservoirs. By 2010, the state of the Aral Sea was somewhat stabilized. Moreover, the eastern part of the southern Aral is highly dependent on seasonal fluctuations. So, in 2010, it was actively recovering in volume. And in 2014, the Amu Darya brought almost no water there due to the scarcity of winter precipitation in the Pamir Mountains.

Contrasts peninsula

Полуостров контрастов - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: ISS / NASA

Night shots from space perfectly illustrate economic realities: take a look, for example, at North and South Korea. It is immediately noticeable what kind of megalopolis Seoul has become and how the port city of Kunsan is behind it. However, the darkness that prevails in the DPRK is most striking: the country resembles the sea channel connecting the Yellow and the Sea of ​​Japan. The capital looks like a small island. Recall electricity consumption in the north is 739 kilowatt-hours per capita, in the south - 10162. The picture was taken from the ISS on January 30, 2014.

Earth's history in section

История Земли в разрезе - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: Jesse Allen / NASA Earth Observatory

And here is the winner of the 2014 competition - a photo of the Pitsyan Fault in northeastern China. Horizontal stripes are geological layers that are crumpled and squeezed to the surface by the Indo-Indian plate, “entering” into the Eurasian plate. In the “bundles” of the strips, multi-colored layers are visible: each of them is responsible for approximately 50 million years. The bottom green layer is the mosses of the Silurian period. A thin blue strip - early Devonian (400 million years ago), when ferns and bushes appeared on land. And by the middle of the Devonian (large red stripe) the bushes had firmly taken root in the soil, and the first trees followed. The deep vertical fault line shattered the mountains in two. Those on the right half of the photo are moving to the north at a speed of 5-10 centimeters a year - the same with which the nails of a person grow. Image received on July 30, 2013 using the Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager.

Venetian dregs

Венецианская муть - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: ISS / NASA

This snapshot of the Venice Lagoon was taken from the ISS on May 9, 2014. The great ancient city in the Adriatic Sea is constantly in danger of flooding. The narrow barrier island protects the lagoon from storm waves, and the breakwaters protect its bay. The red tiles on the roofs of Venice are very different from the gray roofs of the satellite town of Mestre. The city is connected by a powerful dam. It would seem that Venice is connected to the airport with the same jumper (the upper right corner of the image), but in fact it is the wake of the numerous boats and water taxis plying this route. The increasingly turbid water in the lagoon (especially in its northern part) caused the Venetians in 2002 to create the Atlas of the Lagoon (Atlante della laguna), where the ecological situation and all its changes are recorded.

Megaduna and desert lakes

Мегадюны и пустынные озера - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: Jesse Allen / NASA Earth Observatory

The Badyn-Jaran desert in Inner Mongolia (PRC) is famous for the highest sand dunes on the planet - up to 460 meters (like the Empire State Building). Among them are scattered about a hundred lakes fed by groundwater. These lakes gave the desert a name that in Mongolian means “mysterious lakes”. In recent years, due to increased water consumption in cities and agriculture, the lakes began to shallow. Image received on October 5, 2014 using the Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager tool.

Windmills at the mouth of the Thames

Ветряки в устье Темзы - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Photo: Robert Simmon, Jesse Allen / NASA Earth Observatory

At a distance of 20 kilometers from the coast of Kent and Essex, at the mouth of the Thames, on April 8, 2013, the world's largest offshore wind farm began to catch the sea breeze. London Array is capable of producing up to 630 megawatts - enough to supply half a million households with electricity. 175 London Array wind turbines are located on an area of ​​100 square kilometers at a distance of 650 to 1200 meters from each other. The power plant was built on two natural sand banks at a distance from the main sea communications of the British capital. The photograph was made by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) tool on Landsat 8 satellite in 2013.

June Greens

Зелень в июне - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Image: Kevin Ward / NASA Earth Observatory

Scientists and environmentalists are very interested in how the vegetation of the planet changes during the year, where the leaves fall most of all and the leaves bloom. In the seas and oceans, phytoplankton mimics plants. Averaged data for June and December from 2000 to 2014 were obtained by the tool Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer from the satellite Terra. The areas of the polar night, about which no information was collected, are shown in gray. Visible stormy vegetation of the Northern Hemisphere, as well as phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic.

December Greens

Зелень в декабре - Головоломки Земли с высоты космического спутника
Image: Kevin Ward / NASA Earth Observatory

In December, the flowering of life shifted to the south, although summer in the Southern Hemisphere is not so different from winter as in the Northern. At the equator, both land plants and phytoplankton depend much less on the season.