Reading the ABC from Space

Jan 01, 2016



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A, what begins with A? There is Antarctica and the Arctic,algal blooms, acid rain, and the atmosphere. And aerosols altering an astronaut’s view of this ancient assemblage of rock in a state adjacent to Arizona!
An astronaut captured this photograph of Utah’s Green River doubling back on itself—a feature known as Bowknot Bend—from the International Space Station on January 22, 2014.
A few years ago, while working on a story about wildfires, a V appeared to me in a satellite image of a smoke plume over Canada. That image made me wonder: could I track down all 26 letters of the English alphabet using only NASA satellite imagery and astronaut photography?With the help of readers and colleagues, I started to collect images of ephemeral features like clouds, phytoplankton blooms, and dust clouds that formed shapes reminiscent of letters. Some letters, like O and C, were easy to find. Others—A, B, and R—were maddeningly difficult. Note that the A below is cursive. And if you can find a better example of any letter (in NASA imagery), send us an email with the date, latitude, and longitude.When I finally tracked down all the letters and it was time write captions, I happened to be a new dad and deep into a Dr. Seuss reading phase with my son. The Seuss-inspired ABC gallery below is the result. To add some education to the fun, I added hyperlinks (highlighted in blue) to help you find out more about specific places, names, and features. To view a large version of an image, click on it.Read more on NASA Earth Observatory site
By Adam Voiland Design by Jesse Allen & Paul Przyborski - December 15, 2015