The scary face in this image is actually inundated patches of shallow Lake Eyre (pronounced “air”) in the desert country of northern South Australia. An ephemeral feature of this flat, parched landscape, Lake Eyre is Australia’s largest lake when it’s full. However in the last 150 years, it has filled completely only three times.
Satellite photographs of Earth are often abstract and artsy, filled with strange colors, shapes, and textures. Some resemble the paintings of old masters, while others look like microscopic slides studied in biology classes. NASA’s LandSat has snapped images from space for 40 years now, with many of the images going into a special collection by the U.S. Geological Survey called “Earth as Art“. NASA recently decided to run a photo beauty contest to find out which of the satellite images in its collection are the most artistic.
Over 14,000 people ended up voting on the collection of 120+ images. The image above came in at number 5. It’s titled “Lake Eyre Landsat 5 Acquired 8/5/2006″.
#4: Algerian Abstract Landsat 5 Acquired 4/8/1985
What look like pale yellow paint streaks slashing through a mosaic of mottled colors are ridges of wind-blown sand that make up Erg Iguidi, an area of ever-shifting sand dunes extending from Algeria into Mauritania in northwestern Africa. Erg Iguidi is one of several Saharan ergs, or sand seas, where individual dunes often surpass 500 meters (nearly a third of a mile) in both width and height.
#3: Meandering Mississippi Landsat 7 Acquired 5/28/2003
Small, blocky shapes of towns, fields, and pastures surround the graceful swirls and whorls of the Mississippi River, the largest river system in North America. Countless oxbow lakes and cutoffs accompany the meandering river south of Memphis, Tennessee, on the border between Arkansas and Mississippi.
#2: Yukon Delta Landsat 7 Acquired 9/22/2002
Countless lakes, sloughs, and ponds are scattered throughout this scene of the Yukon Delta in southwest Alaska. One of the largest river deltas in the world, and protected as part of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, the river’s sinuous waterways seem like blood vessels branching out to enclose an organ.
#1: Van Gogh from Space Landsat 7 Acquired 7/13/2005
In the style of Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night,” massive congregations of greenish phytoplankton swirl in the dark water around Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea. Population explosions, or blooms, of phytoplankton, like the one shown here, occur when deep currents bring nutrients up to sunlit surface waters, fueling the growth and reproduction of these tiny plants.
If you had to give each of these photographs an “artistic name”, what would you name them? Leave a comment with your answer!
(via NASA via TheDigitalVisual)
Image credits: Photographs by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS