Amusing Monday: Earth becomes art when viewed from satellites

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have created an “Earth-as-Art” collection of brilliant images from space, as seen from Landsat satellites.

Icy Vortex // Image: USGS, Landsat program

Some pictures of Earth formations are reminiscent of actual paintings; some include familiar objects; and some are like abstract creations. Some show the actual colors of earth, sea and sky, while some of the colors are created with filters to highlight natural colors or even to capture light beyond the visible spectrum.

These images remind me of the LIDAR images created by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, which I called works of art in a blog post nearly a year ago. See Water Ways, Dec. 11, 2017. I included images of Puget Sound among some satellite photos posted previously. See Water Ways, Sept.11, 2017.

Earth Selfie // Image: USGS, Landsat program

While the images are valuable to USGS scientists who wish to understand and describe features from space, they also stir the imagination. I enjoyed some of the comments written by the scientists, which I will share below along with the titles as shown on the USGS “Earth as Art” website.

Icy Vortex: “Appearing as if an artist imitating Jackson Pollock had randomly spurted ink onto the canvas, this image shows swirling ice in the Foxe Basin of northern Canada. Even though the image is from late July, there was still ice floating in the water this far north.”

Earth’s Aquarium // Image: USGS, Landsat program

Earth Selfie: “The tendency to recognize human faces in things that are not human is common. Can you see the eye, nose, and mouth in this satellite image of Morocco? The face captured in this ‘Earth Selfie’ appears to be quietly watching over the waters just off its coast. The city of Agadir is underneath the chin, and the irrigated farms of the Souss Valley appear in red.”

Earth’s Aquarium: Phytoplankton growing in the Bering Sea create green and blue swirls in the water. The microscopic phytoplankton cannot be seen with the naked eye, but their vast numbers are visible from space. Scientists called this “Earth’s Aquarium” because the white clouds resemble bubbles in a fish tank.

Bleeding Heart // Image: USGS, Landsat program

Bleeding Heart: “A feathery, blood red streak cuts across the heart of this image. The translucent red paint stroke is not actually a feature of the land. It is a cirrus cloud detected by Landsat 8’s cirrus band. This cirrus cloud, which hovers over the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan, is invisible in natural color imagery.”

Eerie Cloud Shadows: Clouds show up red in this infrared photo, casting eerie shadows of blue on the landscape of southern Egypt.

Van Gogh from Space: “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.” Currents bring nutrients to the sunlit surface, triggering the growth of the microscopic organisms, which contain chlorophyll.

Eerie Cloud Shadows // Image: USGS, Landsat program
Van Gogh from Space // Image: USGS, Landsat program

NOTE: This blog post was written yesterday, but something went awry during the publishing process, so it was not posted until this morning.

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