This Stunning Satellite Image Proves Science Can Be Art

By Maddie Stone on at

It looks like something astronaut Van Gogh would paint from space, but the image above isn’t an impressionist’s creation—it’s a slice of the North Atlantic Ocean, with a bit of post-processing to accentuate the confluence of physics and biology.

Captured on September 23rd, 2015 by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite, the blue green spirals above are dense algae blooms: waters laden with the microscopic photosynthetic critters that produce half the world’s oxygen.

Algae blooms can be quite striking on their own. But after this image was compiled using red, green and blue bands from VIIRS, as well as chlorophyll data, it was processed to highlight the swirling motion of eddy currents. These currents bring cold, nutrient-rich waters from the deep ocean to the surface—feeding the tiny plant creatures that ride them like surfers on a tremendous wave.

Earth is a masterful artist indeed.

[NASA Earth Observatory]


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