Seen from above

Phytoplankton Bloom off IrelandSome satellite images of Earth from space are not only beautiful, but make you think. They give a new perspective on the planet whose surface we spend our lives scurrying around on. Earth is very big of course. Its circumference is more than 10 million times the height of a human being.

The image to the left shows phytoplankton blooms that together are longer than England. The phytoplankton blooms are the blue-green streaks west and south of Ireland in the image. They are composed of enormous numbers of microscopic photosynthesising organisms. The blue green colour comes from the chlorophyll they contain and use for photosynthesis.

As you can see, phytoplankton can form in enormous quantities, which is why a significant amount of the oxygen you are breathing now is made by photosynthesis by these organisms. I guess we owe them one for that. And if we were looking nr from above but at sea level it would be impossible to judge the scale of the bloom. It is only now we can see from space that we can easily appreciate the sheer size of these blooms.

This picture was taken by NASA’s Aqua satellite. There is a gallery of images taken by this satellite in pages at Wired magazine. The first one shows the plume of smoke coming off the volcano Mount Etna on Sicily. I find it just astonishing, the detail is stunning and the plume is as long as the island itself. It does give you a good idea of the power behind a volcanic eruption.