An intimate tour of Earth’s most impressive landscapes… as captured by astronauts with their digital cameras. Dr. Justin Wilkinson from NASA’s astronaut team describes the special places that spacemen focus on whenever they get a moment.
We start with the coast of Namibia in southwestern Africa, the very dry desert coast of the Namib Desert. You can see a cloud band butting up against the shore and some straight sand dunes in the lower left of the picture. Yeah those are big red sand dunes that the astronauts say is one of the most beautiful sites that you can get when you’re flying.
Coming into the view on the left is an impact crater right in the middle of the picture, right about now and some wind streaks. We know where this area is because it’s a bit unique. We’ve got a major dune field coming into the picture on the left there: the Oriental Sand Sea, as it’s called in French, and on the top is the Isawan Sand Sea.
This is the island of Sicily with cloud over Mt. Etna, so you can’t quite tell there’s a big volcano in the middle of the picture right now. And there’s the toe of the boot of Italy coming into the picture from the left. See a good example of sun glint on the right with the sea reflecting the sun.
This is the smooth east coast of the Kamchatka peninsula again. As you move inland it gets even more striking as a picture because of all the volcanoes on this peninsula and the snowy mountains. There’s a volcano just coming into the picture from the top left there. You can see a knob-shaped feature.
Here is a smaller finger of land in China sticking into the Pacific Ocean. In winter you can see all the snow lower left. This is called the Qindoa P eninsula and we recognize it. And again, the sun glint point moving along the coast upper center.
In a very clear picture, the Zagros mountains with snow on them in Iran, in the country of Iran.
Here we have the north coast of Australia and the gulf of Carpenteria and some islands. The biggest island at the bottom of the screen there is Groote island, which means the big island in Dutch.
When you see a huge powerful feature like this and the astronauts do shoot them a lot and we have had some detailed views looking right down the eye, looking at the eyewall. In fact I seem to remember views of breaking waves on the sea surface at the bottom of the eye. Amazing detail.
Look at this neat picture of Great Salt Lake in Utah. And the variation in color? That’s due to an almost a complete blockage of the circulation of the lake by a trestle for a railroad that crosses from one side to the other. It stops the circulation and things get a little bit saltier and certainly saltier at the north end of the lake.
Here you see two circles coming in to the top of the view now. These are either volcanoes or effects from inside the earth producing circular features. We think this is the Big Bend area of Texas.
This is an interesting sideways view of the peninsula of Florida, with the Keys stretching out into the lowest part of the picture there. And the shallow seas around the Bahama Islands top right. And Cuba coming into the picture lower right.
And this I believe is the coast of Northern Chile in South America. It’s a very straight coast, except for that strange headland out to the right just disappearing. And so the desert is the first part of the inland zone, and then you see much blacker at the top of the picture the Andes Mountains with some many dozens of volcanoes.
Here is a thunderhead. The typical look of the thunderheads, the big rainstorms, that develop over the Amazon Basin. And another one coming in top right. Here’s an obviously a major river. There’s an even bigger one coming in on the right. That looks to me like it could well be the Amazon River, with one of its big tributaries on the left. And the flow would seem to be from the bottom of the picture to the top.