NASA Earth Observatory held a Tournament Earth voting campaign to choose the most beautiful image from the “image of earth” which publishes every day.
After five rounds and more than 56,000 votes, the readers have chosen their favorite. The winner of Tournament Earth 2020 is the “Ocean Sand, Bahamas”, its artistic false-color rendering of sand and seaweed beds in the shallows collected 66.2 percent of the votes in the final round.
Let’s look at the TOP 5 images and you’ll find the beauty of earth and the universe alike.
5. A View of Earth from Saturn
Although the Earth Observatory typically reserves “Image of the Day” space for publishing data and images acquired by Earth-observing satellites, we are sometimes so enthralled by the spectacular images acquired by spacecraft observing other parts of the solar system that we want to share these ‘otherworldy’ views with our visitors.
4. Twin Blue Marbles
A day’s clouds. The shape and texture of the land. The living ocean. City lights as a beacon of human presence across the globe. This amazingly beautiful view of Earth from space is a fusion of science and art, a showcase for the remote-sensing technology that makes such views possible, and a testament to the passion and creativity of the scientists who devote their careers to understanding how land, ocean, and atmosphere—even life itself—interact to generate Earth’s unique (as far as we know!) life-sustaining environment.
Drawing on data from multiple satellite missions (not all collected at the same time), a team of NASA scientists and graphic artists created layers of global data for everything from the land surface, to polar sea ice, to the light reflected by the chlorophyll in the billions of microscopic plants that grow in the ocean. They wrapped these layers around a globe, set it against a black background, and simulated the hazy edge of the Earth’s atmosphere (the limb) that appears in astronaut photography of the Earth.
3. Where the Dunes End
Mountains of sand, some as tall as 300 meters (1000 feet), reach from the floor of Africa’s Namib Desert toward the sky. Driven by wind, these dunes march across the desert, bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and in other directions by solid, rocky land.
The abrupt transition from sand to land is visible in these images, acquired on November 13, 2019, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. They show the northern extent of the Namib Sand Sea—a field of sand dunes spanning more than 3 million hectares (more than 10,000 square miles) within the Namib-Naukluft Park, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013. Sand appears red, painted by a layer of iron oxide.
The images show a region along the northern boundary of the Namib Sand Sea, which generally traces the path of the Kuiseb River. The sporadic flow of the Kuiseb River depends on flooding rains that can occur during the rainy season, typically from November to March. Floods, such as one in April 2011, wash away accumulated sand and temporarily halt the northward progression of the dunes. The occasional floodwaters also bring life to the desert, sustaining vegetation along the banks. Analysis of satellite data has shown that extreme floods lead to fast plant growth and a “green-up” that can last for up to two years.
Without much water, vegetation elsewhere in the sand sea is limited–though not completely absent, thanks to fog from the ocean.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Story by Kathryn Hansen.
2. Raikoke Erupts
Unlike some of its perpetually active neighbors on the Kamchatka Peninsula, Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands rarely erupts. The small, oval-shaped island most recently exploded in 1924 and in 1778.
The dormant period ended around 4:00 a.m. local time on June 22, 2019, when a vast plume of ash and volcanic gases shot up from its 700-meter-wide crater. Several satellites—as well as astronauts on the International Space Station—observed as a thick plume rose and then streamed east as it was pulled into the circulation of a storm in the North Pacific.
On the morning of June 22, astronauts shot a photograph (above) of the volcanic plume rising in a narrow column and then spreading out in a part of the plume known as the umbrella region. That is the area where the density of the plume and the surrounding air equalize and the plume stops rising. The ring of clouds at the base of the column appears to be water vapor.
“What a spectacular image. It reminds me of the classic Sarychev Peak astronaut photograph of an eruption in the Kuriles from about ten years ago,” said Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech. “The ring of white puffy clouds at the base of the column might be a sign of ambient air being drawn into the column and the condensation of water vapor. Or it could be a rising plume from interaction between magma and seawater because Raikoke is a small island and flows likely entered the water.”
1. Ocean Sand, Bahamas
Though the above image may resemble a new age painting straight out of an art gallery in Venice Beach, California, it is in fact a satellite image of the sands and seaweed in the Bahamas. The image was taken by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper plus (ETM+) instrument aboard the Landsat 7 satellite. Tides and ocean currents in the Bahamas sculpted the sand and seaweed beds into these multicolored, fluted patterns in much the same way that winds sculpted the vast sand dunes in the Sahara Desert.
Images and text source: Earth Observatory, NASA