Orbital View: Oodles of Orange

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

We’ve seen some cool blues and purples; Now, British astronaut Tim Peake adds some warmer tones to our color palette:

The striking colour of Africa. #colour #africa

A photo posted by Tim Peake (@astro_timpeake) on

It’s unclear what exactly these orange puffs are, but one commenter points to this spot in Algeria. If that’s right, that would put them just outside Hassi Messaoud, a town in the Ouargla Province. Do you have clue what, specifically, these features might be? Let us know.

More colors to come.

Update: Stephen Morris, a professor of geophysics at the University of Toronto, writes in:

I believe the puffy orange things are sand dunes.  Lines of them.  The orange is the color of the sand.

I do not know where in Africa they are, but there are similar lines of "barchan" dunes on the Arabian peninsula:

21°35'27.99"N   54°20'19.96"E

The lines of dunes form perpendicular to the direction of the prevailing winds.

(See all Orbital Views here)