Earth As You’ve Never Seen It

Some of the most striking Earth images ever made… from Landsat. Since the space age began over five decades ago, we have endeavored to travel beyond Earth to discover its origins, and test our own mettle in hostile alien realms.

To see what other planets are made of, and to see to the far corners of the cosmos. Satellites in space have given us ring-side seats in the explosive death of stars, in the formation of stars and planets, in the collision of giant galaxies.

And yet some of the most striking views have come when we turned around and looked back at Earth. To see how breathtaking our planet can be, simply select a location. Okay, Australia.

To the west, Shoemaker crater is the oldest known impact site. It was formed about 1.7 billion years ago… and is today dotted with colorful salt encrusted lakes. An early explorer followed a series of streams to a large lake in Western Australia. It too was laced with salt, so he named it Lake Disappointment.

Now,two views of Russia. Winter in Kamchatka. A volcanic terrain is hidden under snow-covered peaks, while glaciers feed ice into the deep blue Pacific. Here’s a cubist collage in Kazakhstan. Windbreaks of densely planted trees border farmlands in winter.

Now over to China. A remarkable alluvial fan blossoms across a desolate landscape on the border of the Taklamakan Desert. Nestled at the foot of China’s Bogda mountains, is a strange mix of salt lakes and sand dunes, all set below sea level. Snowy ridges and peaks shepherd the confluence of China’s major rivers.

Bordering Asia to the west, you’ll find the Middle East. Down on the largely uninhabited Great Salt Desert of Iran, is natural canvas painted on which nature has painted shallow lakes, mudflats, salt marshes, and sinuous valleys. And here are the wadis of Jordan, dry meandering streambeds that may fill with the onset of drenching seasonal rains.

Now down to the continent of Africa. In the country of Namibia, the Brandberg Massif is an intrusion of granite, graced with unique flora and fauna and pre historic cave paintings. Namibia’s Ugab River only flows above ground for a few days each year. But its waters bubble up into hollows that sustain wildlife. Coursing through parched, landlocked Mali in Western Africa, the Niger River skirts the edges of the dune-striped Sahara Desert. In Libya, a mountainous outcropping rises 6000 feet above the barren plain. Rivers of sand race around it.

Now South America from the warm Caribbean Sea almost to Antarctica. The Negro River in Brazil is one of the Amazon River’s largest tributaries. Along the border of Chile and Argentina is a scattering of about 1,800 volcanoes, 28 of which are active today.

Now we travel north, to Mexico. Snow-capped Colima, the most active volcano in Mexico, in the state of Jalisco. Legend has it that gods sit atop the volcano on thrones of fire and ice. In Sonora, hundreds of volcanic vents and cinder cones were formed when rising magma met underground water to create pockets of steam that blew circular holes in the overlying crust. Here, in southern Campeche on the Yucatan Peninsula is the immense Terminos Lagoon.

Go North again to the Gulf of Mexico and the turbid waters of the Mississippi Delta. Marshes and mudflats take hold amid the shipping channels. Now, at the confluence of Alaska Yukon and the frigid Bering Sea, an intricate maze of lakes and waterways form a rich and priceless natural habitat.

There is stunning beauty too in the landscapes of Europe. On the southwestern coast of the Netherlands, an elaborate system of dikes, canals, dams, bridges, and locks was designed to hold back the North Sea. Cold ocean waters reach into the mountainous coastline of northern Norway, defining ice-sculpted fjords that can be hundreds of meters deep. The Provence region of France dips into a network of finely sculpted bays and peninsulas on the Mediterranean Sea.

Now, finally, our favorite in this series. Wind sweeping across Alaska’s Aleutian Islands has created a natural masterwork… on a planet that is forever sculpting and adorning its surface.

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