nasa's earth observatory

Over a 22-hour period (May 2-3, 2017), strands of plasma at the sun’s edge shifted and twisted back and forth. In this close-up, the strands are being manipulated by strong magnetic forces associated with active regions on the sun. 

To give a sense of scale, the strands hover above the sun more than several times the size of Earth! The images were taken in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. 

Learn more:

Credits: NASA/SDO

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This is what is happening in the sun when it is too bright to see details.

nasa The magnetic field lines between a pair of active regions formed a beautiful set of swaying arches, seen in this footage captured by our Solar Dynamics Observatory on April 24-26, 2017.
These arches, which form a connection between regions of opposite magnetic polarity, are visible in exquisite detail in this wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. Extreme ultraviolet light is typically invisible to our eyes, but is colorized here in gold. This video covers almost two days of activity.
Credits: NASA/SDO 


nasa Between July 5-11, our Sun-observing satellite, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, saw a sunspot rotate into view and captured it on this. Such sunspots are a common, but are less frequent as we head toward solar minimum, which is the period of low solar activity during its regular approximately 11-year cycle. This sunspot is the first to appear after the sun was spotless for two days, and it is the only sunspot group at this moment. Like freckles on the face of the sun, they appear to be small features, but size is relative: The dark core of this sunspot is actually larger than Earth.
Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng, producer 


nasa Our sun observing spacecraft, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, witnessed a partial solar eclipse in space on May 25, 2017 when it caught the moon passing in front of the sun. The lunar transit lasted about an hour, between 2:24 and 3:17 p.m. EDT, with the moon covering about 89 percent of the sun at the peak of its journey across the face of the sun.

Winds Trigger Pond Growth

Wind is a force to be reckoned with. It can stir up monsoons, carry dust thousands of miles, and sculpt rock into sinuous arches. But sometimes, the effects of wind go unnoticed for years, like when it carves away slowly at the edges of a pond.

A new study shows that winds are responsible for the widespread growth of ponds in three watersheds along the Mississippi River. The paper, published in April 2017 in Geophysical Research Letters, shows that wind-driven waves can erode pond banks, leading them to migrate in the direction of the wind. In effect, researchers have shown that wind-driven erosion, which nibbles away coastlines and the edges of larger bodies of water, can also happen inland on small scales.

The researchers analyzed roughly 10,000 satellite images taken between 1982 and 2016, examining land and water pixels to look for inland change across the Mississippi River Delta. “Up until now, a lot of focus has been on coastal retreat,” said Alejandra Ortiz, a marine geologist at Indiana University, Bloomington. Instead, Ortiz and colleagues focused on internal fragmentation; that is, what happens when land becomes subdivided by inland erosion processes. “Our thinking was, can you see this on large scale?”

Ortiz and her co-authors found that ponds in the Mississippi Delta tended to expand in a southwesterly direction, which is the same direction as the prevailing winds (which blow out of the northeast). This was especially true in Terrebonne and Barataria basins, where 80 percent of the ponds are expanding. The other study basin, the Atchafalaya-Vermillion, was deemed stable, with nearly as many ponds contracting as expanding?roughly 30 percent.

The false-color image above shows the area of study along the Atchafalaya Delta. It was captured on December 1, 2016, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. The colors emphasize the difference between land and water while allowing viewers to observe waterborne sediment, which is typically absent from false-color imagery.

References and additional images: NASA Earth Observatory

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and data from Ortiz, A. C., Roy, S., & Edmonds, D. A. (2017)
Caption: Pola Lem


Time And Space

anonymous asked:

So if you had a sandy sahara type desert and then suddenly what's essentially a giant oasis gets created in the centre of it with arable land etc but the rest of the desert wasn't changed how would it be affected? Would it? I assume it would because of the introduction of a water source? (I'm my story this feat is done by a very powerful being + magic I know it's u realistic to happen I'm just wondering what consequences there'd be?)

The consequences for the rest of the desert could actually remain quite limited. Even if some of the water from the oasis were to reach other parts of the desert, it would quickly drain through the sand. Unless your oasis manages to raise the entire region’s water table enough to produce streams and soils, it may not have much impact at all.

As an analogue for this situation, I’ve looked at modern agriculture in deserts: Water is pumped in (either from underground aquifers, or rivers, or lakes) and used to irrigate a certain patch of land–and only that land is green.

(Khufrah Oasis, Libya – from NASA Earth Observatory)

For more examples of farming in arid areas:
- Turkey
- Saudi Arabia
- Egypt

In order for the rest of the desert to become less arid, the whole region would have to see a significant increase in rainfall. It is possible for regions to alternate between deserts and vegetated landscapes. For example, several thousand years ago, the Sahara had lakes and ponds–known as one of the “Green Sahara” or “African Humid Period”. (For some of the scientific evidence and further explanation, click here. There’s also been research on how the most recent Green Sahara event affected humans living in Northern Africa.) Changes in Earth’s climate system resulted in very different precipitation patterns–so if that’s something you want to do, it’s possible.

Assuming your magically-produced oasis is a localized phenomenon (as human farms are), the rest of the desert would likely look much the same as before. The oasis would also require some “upkeep”: It will need a continuing input of water if it’s going to remain, rather than be taken over by the desert again. (In the case of human farming, irrigation and groundwater pumping.) Your oasis is probably going to be an isolated, unique location–which would be quite easy to spot from the air.

I hope that helps!
-Mod Terra

Climate Change: Species On The Move: Phytoplankton (InsideClimate News)

A phytoplankton bloom in the Barents Sea, August 2011 (Credit: Jeff Schmaltz/NASA Earth Observatory)

About This Species

Phytoplankton are tiny—almost microscopic—but don’t let that fool you. These free-floating, plant-like organisms occupy the bottom of the ocean’s food chain, making them vital to the ecosystem. They live in the ocean and in sea ice, and like plants on land, phytoplankton need sunlight. Most are buoyant and float in the upper portion of the ocean where sunlight can reach them. They provide food for a wide array of species, like whales, shrimp, snails and jellyfish.

In the Arctic, phytoplankton blooms are triggered by the melting of sea ice in spring. Light green shelves of phytoplankton swirl into the Arctic Ocean. As the climate changes and the oceans warm, the timing of phytoplankton blooms is shifting and the species are showing up in different places altogether. As this happens, the effects ripple outward, growing in significance along the way.


Warmer oceans are already resulting in earlier blooms. A new study in the journal Science found that for every degree that the water increased, one species of phytoplankton bloomed four or five days earlier. From 2003 to 2012, the bloom of that one species shifted 20 days earlier—a trend the researchers projected would continue as the oceans warm further.

Many species tie their lifecycles to the timing of the bloom. When phytoplankton blooms earlier, the next level of the food chain—zooplankton—can miss its opportunity to feed on phytoplankton. That mismatch can work its way up to the fish that eat the zooplankton, the seals that eat those fish and the polar bears at the top of the food chain.

In addition, when thick, old sea ice is thinned by warming, sunlight is able to permeate the surface and stimulate phytoplankton to bloom within the ice. What was once a white surface is made dark, which absorbs more energy from the sun and exacerbates warming.

Range Shifts

A combination of ocean warming and shifts in ocean circulation and surface conditions has phytoplankton on the move. In the coming century, species will shift northeastward, with major consequences for the ecosystem.

Looking Forward

That northeastward shift is happening at a faster rate than previously estimated. A study published in March 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences described the dynamic combination of rising ocean temperatures and changes in ocean circulation and surface conditions that are driving this shift.

The study examined 87 North American phytoplankton species, looking at historical data from 1951-2000 and projections for 2051-2100. It found that 74 percent of the species it studied were moving toward the North Pole at a rate of 8 miles per decade, and that 90 percent were shifting eastward at a rate of 26.5 miles per decade.

“Anthropogenic climate change over the coming century may drive North Atlantic phytoplankton species ranges and communities to move in space, or shift, and cause communities to internally reassemble, or shuffle,” the study says.


This is a slow motion video clip from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft - currently staring at the sun from Earth’s orbit. This wavelength is set to see gas in the sun’s Corona - the big opening you see is a coronal hole, opened up by the sun’s tangled magnetic field.

The French–Italian border at night. Brightly lit metropolitan areas of Torino (Italy), Lyon, and Marseille illuminated with the island of Corsica (visible in the Ligurian Sea); NASA Earth Observatory photograph; taken by an International Space Station (ISS) astronaut, 2010.

Space Alphabet !

(The info is under the  pics, but you can ignore them for the sake of beauty, for a moment.) 

A - Utah’s Green River doubling back on itsels a feature known as Bowknot Bend, taken from the International Space Station

B - the Arkansas River and the Holla Bend Wildlife Refuge. In the winter, it is common for the refuge to host 100,000 ducks and geese at once

C - an artificial island at the southern end of Bahrain Island. The beach sand on tropical islands is mostly made up of calcium carbonate from the shells and skeletons of marine organisms

D - the Enhanced Thematic Mapper on Landsat 7 acquired this image of Akimiski Island in James Bay

E - a phytoplankton bloom off the coast of New Zealand, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite

F - the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this false-colour image of valleys and snow-covered mountain ranges in southeastern Tibet. Firn is a granular type of snow often found on the surface of a glacier before it has been compressed into ice

G - Pinaki Island, a small atoll of the Tuamotu group in French Polynesia

H - rivers running through colourful ridges in southwestern Kyrgyzstan, taken by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8

I - the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the Andaman Islands, which form an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal between India, to the west. The thin, bright rings surrounding several of the islands are coral reefs that were lifted up by a massive earthquake near Sumatra in 2004

J - Trunk Reef near Townsville, Australia, taken by the Operational Land Imager

K - glaciers at the Sirmilik National Park Pond Inlet in Mittimatalik, Canada

L - the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite, captured this image of snow across the northeastern United States

M - the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured this image of glaciers in the Tian Shan mountains in northeastern Kyrgyzstan. The trail of brown sediment in the middle of the uppermost glacier is a medial moraine, a term glaciologists use to describe sediment that accumulates in the middle of merging glaciers

N - the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite, captured this image of ship tracks over the Pacific. Ship emissions contain small particles that cause the clouds to form

O - the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on the Terra satellite, captured this image of Tenoumer meteorite crater in Mauritania. The meteorite struck Earth between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago

P - the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) sensor on the Terra satellite, captured this false-color image of the Mackenzie River Delta in Canada

Q - the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite, acquired this image of Lonar Crater in India. Shocked quartz minerals with an unusual structure that can only form under intense pressure, offering a clue that the lake was formed by a large meteorite

R - the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, captured this image of Lago Menendez in Argentina

S - the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite, acquired this image of clouds swirling over the Atlantic Ocean

T - the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, captured this image of development along two roads in the United Arab Emirates

U - the Ikonos satellite captured this image of Gooseneck State Park in Utah

V - the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, acquired this image of ash on the snow around Shiveluch- one of the largest and most active volcanoes on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula

W - the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, captured this image of dust blowing over the Red Sea

X - the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite, captured this false-colour image of the northwest corner of Leidy Glacier in Greenland

Y - the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s. Terra satellite captured this false-colour image of the Ugab River in Namibia

Z - the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite, captured this image of wildfire smoke over Canada 

Earth Observatory has tracked down images resembling all 26 letters of the English alphabet using only NASA satellite imagery and astronaut photography. Science writer for the Nasa Earth Observatory, Adam Voiland, said: “A few years ago, while working on a story about wildfires, a V appeared to me in a satellite image of a smoke plume over Canada. That image made me wonder: could I track down all 26 letters of the English alphabet using only NASA satellite imagery and astronaut photography?” "With the help of readers and colleagues, I started to collect images of ephemeral features like clouds, phytoplankton blooms, and dust clouds that formed shapes reminiscent of letters. Some letters, like O and C, were easy to find. Others-A, B, and R-were maddeningly difficult. Note that the A above is cursive. And if you can find a better example of any letter (in NASA imagery), send us an email with the date, latitude, and longitude.“ 

Adam Voiland explains that when he finally tracked down all the letters and it was time write captions, he had just become a new dad & deep into a Dr. Seuss reading phase with my son. 

"The Seuss-inspired ABC gallery above is the result. To add some education to the fun.”

India-Pakistan Border at Night

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this nighttime panorama while looking north across Pakistan’s Indus River valley. The port city of Karachi is the bright cluster of lights facing the Arabian Sea, which appears completely black. City lights and the dark color of dense agriculture closely track with the great curves of the Indus valley. For scale, the distance from Karachi to the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains is 1,160 kilometers (720 miles).

This photograph shows one of the few places on Earth where an international boundary can be seen at night. The winding border between Pakistan and India is lit by security lights that have a distinct orange tone. Another night image (click here) shows the border zone looking southeast from the Himalaya. A daylight view shows the vegetated bends of the Indus Valley winding through the otherwise desert country.

More than two millennia ago, Alexander the Great entered the Indus plains in 327 BCE from the northwest. He then spent many months leading his army and navy down the length of the Indus valley shown in this view. From near Karachi, he then began the desert march back to Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). By contrast, it takes the space station just three minutes to travel this distance.

Astronaut photograph ISS045-E-27869 was acquired on September 23, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 28 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 45 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University, Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.


NASA’s SOFIA mission, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is literally a telescope stuck in the back of a 747 that flies at altitudes higher than typical commercial jets, above the tropopause (the altitude that clouds usually stop at. That gives them a view of the heavens not typically seen out the windows of planes. This video shakes a bit because it’s a handheld camera, but this is the view they get out the window. Despite a full moon, the Milky Way can be seen, in addition to light pollution below penetrating the clouds from a number of cities. Saturn and Mars can be seen at the upper right as the particularly bright dots, plus a lot of meteors. 


The Holuhraun lava field in Iceland (in false colour infrared and natural colour).

Source: Jesse Allen/Landsat 8 - OLI/U.S. Geological Survey/NASA Earth Observatory

The World’s Newest Island, Niijima

The Earth is geologically dynamic. Mountains and oceans are created and destroyed over millions of years. Almost nothing is permanent on the face of the planet.

In a human lifespan, it’s easy to ignore this reality. That is, until a volcano creates a new island.

In late November, a few days before Thanksgiving, an eruption began in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles south of Tokyo in the Ogasawara Islands. Over the last few weeks, an island has formed at the volcanic site. People are calling the new land mass Niijima. 

The island has an area of about 14 acres and it continues to grow. NASA’s Earth Observatory released new images of it today.

Read more. [Image: NASA]