Ocean currents, sand dunes and algae: NASA satellite photo

One would simply say it’s not Photoshop. And no, this time the sentence we are not talking about photos of human bodies in search of perfection, even if it is still perfection: the image returned by NASA’s LandSat 7 satellite, in fact, shows some huge eddies spotted in the watercolorful and so accurate that they almost seem painted.


Yet, these vortices, with their undulating swirl of shapes and colors, they are completely natural and not altered by human tools. But what is it specifically about? Should we be afraid of it? The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, through its Instagram account, sheds light on the issue.

Mysterious swirls and breathtaking motifs

In fact, the civilian government agency responsible for the space program and aerospace research of the United States of America has actually “fished out” an image from several years agoprecisely dating back to the 2020 edition in Tournament Earthto rekindle the spotlight on a natural process that changes our natural landscapes, specifically the aquatic ones.

The photo appears to show the elongated petals of a turning flower shades of green to deep blue or the ruffles of a dress, which are apparently digitally rendered, as if the entire “design” had been created ad hoc thanks to the latest image processing software. Instead, it is one real phototaken by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus tool (called ETM +), detection sensor equipped with a camera supplied with the Landsat 7 satellite.

The shot captures the depths of a part of our oceans, in all its majestic complexity. Every nuance of these “whirlpools” it represents a specific level, not only of the water, but also of the sand and sediments lying in the abyss.

A natural process in continuous evolution

Specifically, the shot reproposed by NASA shows the interaction between the sand and the algae of the Bahamas. The eddies, therefore, are nothing more than the seabed, rich in sand, algae and oceanic sediments, which thanks to the tides and ocean currents have “organized” themselves, transforming themselves into these multi-colored grooved motifs. Even though the shot in question dates back to 2001 (Landsat 7 was successfully launched in 1999 and its primary scientific mission ended just this year), this kind of process is still going on.

As the researchers explain, it is a real action of seabed modeling, perennial and constant, similar to the one that the wind puts in place in the Sahara desert, creating its dunes and continuing to modify the landscape. In the case of the oceans, however, there is also something more: the shades and shapes assumed have to do with the different temperatures of the sea, which act by eroding, melting or crystallizing some materials.

The seabed and the environmental impact

Such photos are essential for studies on global changes and for monitoring and evaluating seabed coverage, as well as for mapping large ocean areas. Researchers and scientists used this shot as a yardstick for the changes taking place, caused by pollution and global warming.

In addition, let’s face it, this type of shots reminds us that nature can create enchanting landscapes and that the responsibility not to destroy them (and, on the contrary, to enhance them) is entirely in our hands.

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About Alex Marcell

He likes dogs, pizza and popcorn. Already a fanboy of Nintendo and Sony, but today throws anything. He has collaborated on sites and magazines such as GameBlast, Nintendo World, Hero and Portal Pop, but today is dedicated exclusively to Spark Chronicles.

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