Orbital View: Earth Day Edition

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

It’s a great day on Instagram for satellite and ISS imagery, starting with this stunning shot from American astronaut Terry Virts:

Happy #earthday2016

A photo posted by Terry Virts (@astro_terry) on

The European Space Agency went with a more artistic tribute to Mother Earth:

A photo posted by ESA (@europeanspaceagency) on

From their caption:

Just in time for Earth Day! 🌏💚💙 This is the swirling landscape of Iran’s salt desert, Dasht-e Kavir. With temperatures reaching about 50ºC in the summer, this area sees little precipitation, but runoff from the surrounding mountains creates seasonal lakes and marshes. The high temperatures cause the water to evaporate, leaving behind clays and sand soils with a high concentration of minerals. The brushstroke patterns are geological layers eroded primarily by wind.

It’s also National Park Week in the U.S., and American astronaut Jeff Williams is gramming a bunch of parks and natural monuments. A handful of his best:

Grand Teton National Park. Merged panorama taken during my 2006 Exp 13 mission. #NationalParkWeek. #FindYourPark

A photo posted by Jeff Williams (@astro_jeffw) on

As if the week wasn’t commemorative enough, yesterday was the birthday of John Muir, the famed naturalist and Sierra Club founder. Muir penned many pieces for The Atlantic at the turn of the 20th century, including this tribute to Yellowstone, the country’s first national park (which Caroline highlighted for the park’s 144th birthday last month). Money quote from Muir:

Beside the treasures common to most mountain regions that are wild and blessed with a kind climate, the park is full of exciting wonders. The wildest geysers in the world, in bright, triumphant bands, are dancing and singing in it amid thousands of boiling springs, beautiful and awful, their basins arrayed in gorgeous colors like gigantic flowers; and hot paint-pots, mud springs, mud volcanoes, mush and broth caldrons whose contents are of every color and consistency, plash and heave and roar in bewildering abundance.

That passage brought to mind an otherworldly shot of Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the U.S. and the third largest in the world:

From Quigley’s caption:

The amazing colours are caused by of pigmented bacteria that grow around the edges of the mineral-rich water. The colours can range from green to red, depending on the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoids (I had to look that one up!) and on the temperature of the water. In the summer, they tend to be orange and red, whereas in the winter they are usually dark green. The centre of the pool is sterile due to extreme heat.

If you still haven’t gotten enough of an Earth Day fix, NASA is going wild:

On April 22, NASA will post about 200 images across nearly 100 different social media channels that capture the breadth of the agency’s 24-hour-a-day work to study Earth. The images were captured during the week of March 27, but have been assembled chronologically to tell a story of a “day in the life” of NASA’s Earth science work. The time-stamped posts -- hashtagged #24Seven [Twitter, Instagram]-- will begin publishing at 12:01 a.m. EDT and will continue throughout the day.

But I prefer this one from NOAA, given the apocalyptic vibe (¯\_(ツ)_/¯):

But every day is Earth Day at Orbital View, so stay tuned for more soon.