Sunday, February 15, 2009

Earth as art

When viewed from an altitude of 400 Kms our Earth transforms into an amazing scenario of abstract art.
The scenes depicted below have been developed for their aesthetic beauty, rather than for scientific value.
The artists of this collection come from three sensors aboard satellites orbiting the Earth - Landsat 7, ASTER, and MODIS.
All the images are courtsey of NASA

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A vast alluvial fan blossoms across the desolate landscape between the Kunlun and Altun mountain ranges that form the southern border of the Taklimakan Desert in China's XinJiang Province.



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Vivid colors belie the arid landscape of northern Chile where the Atacama Desert, one of the world's driest, meets the foothills of the Andes. Here salt pans and gorges choked with mineral-streaked sediments give way to white-capped volcanoes.


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Brazil's Araca River is a tributary of the Negro River, which feeds into the Amazon.


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The Turpan Depression, nestled at the foot of China's Bogda Mountains, is a strange mix of salt lakes and sand dunes, and is one of the few places in the world that lies below sea level.


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Rising unexpectedly from the heart of the Namib Desert in northern Namibia, the Brandberg Massif is an exhumed granite intrusion. Unique plant and animal communities thrive in its high-altitude environment, and prehistoric cave paintings decorate walls hidden in its steep cliffs.


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Several hundred kilometers southeast of Buenos Aires, Cabo San Antonio juts out into the Atlantic Ocean along the Argentinean Coast.


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Known for its beaches and resort hotels, Cancun lies at the tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Inland from this tourist mecca, however, lies a sparsely populated tropical scrub forest that shelters the ruins of ancient Mayan cities.


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Named after the ancient Mayan Province of Kimpech, the state of Campeche comprises much of the western half of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Rivers in southern Campeche drain into the immense Terminos Lagoon, the entrance to which is protected by a long barrier island, Isla Del Carmen.


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Snow-capped Colima Volcano, the most active volcano in Mexico, rises abruptly from the surrounding landscape in the state of Jalisco. Colima is actually a melding of two volcanoes, the older Nevado de Colima to the north and the younger, historically more active Volcan de Colima to the south. Legend has it that gods sit atop the volcano on thrones of fire and ice.


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Along the southern coast of the Netherlands, sediment-laden rivers have created a massive delta of islands and waterways in the gaps between coastal dunes. After unusually severe spring tides devastated this region in 1953, the Dutch built an elaborate system of dikes, canals, dams, bridges, and locks to hold back the North sea.


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A marsh-like area borders the Demini River in northwestern Brazil. The Demini eventually joins the Amazon River.


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Utah's Green River flows south across the Tavaputs Plateau (top) before entering Desolation Canyon (center). The Canyon slices through the Roan and book Cliffs - two long, staircase-like escarpments. Nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon, Desolation Canyon is one of the largest unprotected wilderness areas in the American West


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Nicknamed "Dragon Lake," this body of water is formed by the Bratskove Reservoir, built along the Angara River in southern Siberia, near the city of Bratsk. This image was acquired in winter, when the lake is frozen.


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The Edrengiyn Nuruu forms a transition zone between the Mongolian steppes to the north and the arid deserts of northern China to the south.


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This scar on an arid landscape is the dry riverbed of the Ghadamis River in the Tinrhert Hamada Mountains near Ghadamis, Libya.


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142 million years ago, an asteroid or comet slammed into what is now the Missionary Plains in Australia's Northern Territory, forming a crater 24 kilometers in diameter and 5 kilometers deep. Today, like a bull's eye, the circular ring of hills that defines Gosses Bluff stands as a stark reminder of the event


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Like swirls of paint on an enormous canvas, shallow lakes, mudflats, and salt marshes share the sinuous valleys on Iran's largely uninhabited Dasht-e Kavir, or Great Salt Desert.


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Along Greenland's western coast, a small field of glaciers surrounds Baffin Bay.


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Dark-colored volcanic cones sprout from an ancient lava field known as Harrat Al Birk along Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastline. Many such lava fields dot the Arabian Peninsula and range in age from 2 million to 30 million years old.


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Soaring, snow-capped peaks and ridges of the eastern Himalayas Mountains create an irregular white-on-red patchwork between major rivers in southwestern China. The Himalayas are made up of three parallel mountain ranges that together extend more than 2900 kilometers.


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The Lambert Glacier in Antarctica, is the world's largest glacier. The focal point of this image is an icefall that feeds into the Lambert glacier from the vast ice sheet covering the polar plateau. Ice flows like water, albeit much more slowly. Cracks can be seen in this icefall as it bends and twists on its slow-motion descent 1300 feet (400 meters) to the glacier below.


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Fed by multiple waterways, Brazil's Negro River is the Amazon River's largest tributary. The mosaic of partially-submerged islands visible in the channel disappears when rainy season downpours raise the water level.


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Meandering wadis combine to form dense, branching networks across the stark, arid landscape of southeastern Jordan. The Arabic word "wadi" means a gully or streambed that typically remains dry except after drenching, seasonal rains.


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The eastern side of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula juts into the Pacific Ocean west of Alaska. In this winter image, a volcanic terrain is hidden under snow-covered peaks and valley glaciers feed blue ice into coastal waters.


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As air flows over and around objects in its path, spiraling eddies, known as Von Karman vortices, may form. The vortices in this image were created when prevailing winds sweeping east across the northern Pacific Ocean encountered Alaska's Aleutian Islands.


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These Karman vortices formed over the islands of Broutona, Chirpoy, and Brat Chirpoyev ("Chirpoy's Brother"), all part of the Kuril Island chain found between Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula and Japan.


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Like frantic brushstrokes, fire scars cover the arid landscape near Lake Amadeus (upper right) in Australia's Northern Territory. Lake Amadeus is rich in salts that have been leached out of underlying sediments. When dry, its lake bed is transformed into a glistening sheet of white salt crystals.


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Ephemeral Lake Carnegie, in Western Australia, fills with water only during periods of significant rainfall. In dry years, it is reduced to a muddy marsh.


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Surrounded by sand dunes, Lake Disappointment is an ephemeral salt lake in one of the most remote areas of Western Australia. An early explorer supposedly named the lake in 1897 after following a number of creeks that he thought would lead to a large lake; they did, but the lake's extremely salty water was not drinkable.


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The MacDonnell Ranges are a band of mountains spanning Australia's arid interior. Only a portion of the Ranges can be seen in this image.


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Turbid waters spill out into the Gulf of Mexico where their suspended sediment is deposited to form the Mississippi River Delta. Like the webbing on a duck's foot, marshes and mudflats prevail between the shipping channels that have been cut into the delta.


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Located on the Italian island of Sicily, Mt. Etna is one of the world's most active volcanoes. In this image of the volcano in 2001, a plume of steam and smoke rising from the crater drifts over some of the many dark lava flows that cover its slopes.


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Namaqualand in South Africa is known as the "gem of the Northern Cape." Portions of this area were turned into a national park in 1999, to preserve the abundant wildlife and brilliant wildflowers native to the area.


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Namib-Naukluft National Park is an ecological preserve in Namibia's vast Namib Desert. Coastal winds create the tallest sand dunes in the world here, with some dunes reaching 980 feet (300 meters) in height.


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Coursing through parched, landlocked Mali in Western Africa, the Niger River skirts the edge of the dune-striped Sahara before turning sharply south to join the Bani River. At the confluence of the two rivers is an inland delta complete with narrow, twisting waterways, lagoons, and tiny islands


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Mimicking a cubist collage, linear windbreaks of densely planted trees surround farmsteads in this winter landscape near the city of Komsomolets in Northern Kazakhstan.


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Like dark fingers, cold ocean waters reach deeply into the mountainous coastline of northern Norway, defining the fjords for which the country is famous. Flanked by snow-capped peaks, some of these ice-sculpted fjords are hundreds of meters deep.


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The pockmarked terrain of Pinacate National Park in Mexico's Sonora Province is evidence of a violent past. Among hundreds of volcanic vents and cinder cones are rare maar craters, formed when rising magma met underground water to create pockets of steam that blew nearly circular holes in the overlying crust.


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Massive sand dunes have been swept around and between rock outcroppings in the barren Libyan Desert. Only a handful of oases lie scattered across this especially arid section of the vast Sahara Desert.


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Like a many-faceted jewel fashioned in an indigo setting, the Shetland Islands lie 210 kilometers north of the Scottish mainland in the North Atlantic Ocean. Despite their 60 degree north latitude, the Shetlands enjoy a relatively temperate climate thanks to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream.


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Resembling splotches of yellow and green paint, salt-encrusted seasonal lakes dot the floor of Western Australia's Shoemaker impact structure. The structure was formed about 1.7 billion years ago and is currently the oldest known impact site in Australia.


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France's famed Provence region meets the Mediterranean as a gentle curve intricately sculpted into sheltered bays and fringing peninsulas. The ancient port of Marseilles, the country's second largest city, nestles in the large bay at the lower left corner of the image.


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The Sulaiman Mountains are a major geological feature of Pakistan and one of the bordering ranges of the Indian subcontinent


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Between the fertile Euphrates River valley and the cultivated lands of the eastern Mediterranean coast, the Syrian Desert covers parts of modern Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.


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Elusive, but ecologically vital, Namibia's Ugab River only flows above ground for a few days each year. The subterranean waters underlying this ephemeral river, however, are shallow enough in places to fill hollows and sustain a wildlife population that includes the rare desert elephant.


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Valley glaciers appear as fingers of blue ice reaching out from the Vatnajökull Glacier in Iceland's Skaftafell National Park. The park lies on the southern edge of Vatnajökull, Europe's largest icecap.


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Steep-sided volcanic cones along the Chilean-Argentinean border add texture to this "study in blue." Of approximately 1800 volcanoes scattered across this region, 28 are active.


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The West Fjords are a series of peninsulas in northwestern Iceland. They represent less than one-eighth the country's land area, but their jagged perimeter accounts for more than half of Iceland's total coastline.


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A giant whirlpool cloud, coaxed into shape by high-altitude winds, swirls above the sea between Spain and Morocco.


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This image shows a spinning formation of ice, clouds, and low-lying fog off the eastern coast of Greenland.


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Extensive wetlands lie near the town of Yellowknife, near the Great Slave Lake in northern Canada. The shallow lakes seen in this image have formed in grooves in the landscape that were carved by glaciers during the last Ice Age.


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An intricate maze of small lakes and waterways define the Yukon Delta at the confluence of Alaska's Ukon and Kuskokwim Rivers with the frigid Bering Sea. Wildlife abounds on the delta and offshore where sheets of sea ice form during the coldest months of the year.

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