Space Pictures This Week: Mercury’s Marks, Miracle Delta

By  //  June 22, 2013

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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Milky-colored ripples on the Atlantic Ocean trail behind the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa in this June 15 image snapped by NASA'sTerra satellite. (NASA image)

Milky-colored ripples on the Atlantic Ocean trail behind the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa in this June 15 image snapped by NASA’s Terra satellite. (NASA image)

Wind Shadow: Image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS/NASA    

This high-resolution image of the craggy surface of Mercury, released June 20, was taken by the cameras aboard NASA's MESSENGER orbiter. Multiple impact craters with fresh ray patterns appear scattered across an ancient lava basin. (NASA image)

This high-resolution image of the craggy surface of Mercury, released June 20, was taken by the cameras aboard NASA’s MESSENGER orbiter. Multiple impact craters with fresh ray patterns appear scattered across an ancient lava basin. (NASA image)

Thanks to a vantage point 450 miles (725 kilometers) above the Earth, strange patterns caused by strong winds on the ocean’s surface become visible in the play of sunlight on the water.

The rocky, volcanic islands redirect the strong northwest winds that come up against the coast, forming a wind shadow on the southwest side of the islands. This shadow creates distinct helical cloud trails and alternately smooth and choppy waters, which change how light is reflected.

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—Andrew Fazekas


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