Lonely Planet Writer

Rainbow planet; NASA releases spectacular imagery of the earth as you've never seen it before

NASA has just released a gallery of amazing photos of the planet as you’ve never seen it before. From Venice’s canals to Iraq’s sulfur fires, the images show a unique perspective on cities, volcanoes and waterfalls and even track the effect of erosion and climate change.
The images have been colour-coded to better understand the geographical features and the results are a rainbow planet from space. All the images are courtesy of Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), a cooperative effort between NASA and Japan’s Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry.

Gosse Bluff, Australia

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Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Gosse Bluff in Australia’s Northern Territory is the eroded remnant of an impact crater. It’s thought to be made by a large meteorite about 143 million years ago. The site is part of the Tnorala Conservation Reserve and is a sacred place to the Western Arrernte Aboriginal people who believe it was formed when a group of women danced across the sky in the Milky Way.

Dagzê Lake, Tibet

Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems,
and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Dagzê Lake is an inland lake in Shuanghu, the most sparsely populated county in Tibet.  In glacial times, the region was wetter and the lakes larger. However, climate change has meant the lakes have shrank. The endangered Tibetan antelopes can sometimes be seen near the shore.

San Francisco, USA

Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems,
and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

This image captures the San Francisco Bay region in March 2000. The vegetation is in red, and urban areas in grey. The sediments in the bays show up as as lighter shades of blue, while on the west coast you can spot a strong surf that looks like a white fringe.

Lena River, Russia

Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems,
and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

The Lena River, Russia empties into the Arctic Ocean,  forming a delta 400 km wide. The delta is frozen tundra for about 7 months of the year, but spring warming transforms the region into a lush wetland. Part of it is incorporated into the Lena Delta Wildlife Reserve.

Palm Islands and The World, Dubai

Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems,
and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

The two Palm Islands are two artifical islands off the coast of Dubai. In total they add 520 kilometres of private beaches to the city of Dubai. To the north of these is The World, an archipelago of 300 islands constructed in the shape of the world map.

Richat Structure, Oudane, Mauritania

Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems,
and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Also known as the Eye of the Sahara, the Richat Structure has become a landmark for shuttle crew  because it forms a conspicuous bull’s-eye in the expanse of the desert. Originally thought to be formed from the impact of an asteroid, it’s now believed to be the spectacular result of simple erosion.

Erebus Ice Tongue, Antarctica

Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
Image by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems,
and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

The Erebus glacier in Antarctica protrudes from the coast to form a 2 km ‘ice tongue’. When the sea thaws in the summer, the ice tongue floats on the water without thawing. It also calves off in places forming small icebergs. When the ice around the tongue melts in the summer the waves of sea water constantly batter the edges of the tongue, carving very elaborate structures in the ice.

You can explore the other spectacular images from the gallery online. Interested in the science behind them? All of ASTER’s data products are now available to use free of charge.

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