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"ABCs From Space" Made By NASA Satellite Images

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Tom Hale

author

Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

422 "ABCs From Space" Made By NASA Satellite Images
NASA

Since 2012, Adam Voiland has been working on a pet project to find every letter of the alphabet in NASA satellite imagery and astronaut photographs. After years of weary eyes and a little bit of help from his colleagues and the Internet, NASA’s Earth Observatory website has released the complete alphabet.

The project finds letters in everything from mountain ranges, clouds, rivers, phytoplankton blooms, ice, dust clouds, and even man-made towns.

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In the article, Voiland explains the inspiration behind the project. As a science writer for NASA’s Earth Observatory blog, he spends a fair amount of time trawling through NASA’s satellite imagery. While writing a piece on wildfires, he came across a “V” shape in a smoke bloom over Canada. Struck by curiosity, he set out to find the complete set.  

He went on to explain: “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.”

You can check the full alphabet on Adam Voiland's post over at the NASA Earth Observatory, along with all of his Dr. Seuss-inspired captions explaining where exactly these letters lie. We've posted a selection below.

"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!

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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."

Caption by Adam Voiland. Image credit: NASA

"Bonjour B, what begins with B? Biomass and boreal forests. Beirut, Barcelona, and Brasília. A bunch of babbling birds bunched up along Holla Bend.

On August 4, 2014, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this image of the Arkansas River and the Holla Bend Wildlife Refuge. In the winter, it is common for the refuge to host 100,000 ducks and geese at once."

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Caption by Adam Voiland. Image credit: NASA

"Big C, little C, what begins with C? This curving crescent of carbonate and quartz clinging to the coast. There is CloudSat and CALIPSO. Contrails from jets cruising over cumulus clouds. The Corolis force, chlorofluorocarbons, and crafty coccolithophores!

An astronaut captured this photograph of an artificial island at the southern end of Bahrain Island on January 23, 2011. The beach sand on tropical islands is mostly made up of calcium carbonate from the shells and skeletons of marine organisms."

Caption by Adam Voiland. Image credit: NASA

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"What begins with D? Decomposing detritus and dust deposited on a dimpled island during deglaciation. Deserts, deltas, and deforestation. What else? DATA! Data sets… databases… data systems… data visualizations.

The Enhanced Thematic Mapper on Landsat 7 acquired this image of Akimiski Island in James Bay on August 9, 2000."

Caption by Adam Voiland. Image credit: NASA

"What begins with E? Earth, of course. Evaporation and the exosphere. Egypt and Eyjafjallajökull. Eskers, erratics, El Niño, and EO-1. This ephemeral entourage of algae off the east coast of an island where English is spoken!

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On October 25, 2009, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of a phytoplankton bloom off the coast of New Zealand."

Caption by Adam Voiland. Image credit: NASA

"Big F, little f. What begins with F? Firn-filled fjords and frozen forms on folded, fossil-filled facies of rock! Fog, fossil fuels, and faults. France, Fort Collins, and don’t forget Fiji.

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this false-color image of valleys and snow-covered mountain ranges in southeastern Tibet on August 4, 2014. Firn is a granular type of snow often found on the surface of a glacier before it has been compressed into ice."

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Caption by Adam Voiland. Image credit: NASA

"Good day, G. What begins with G? Geostationary satellites in geosynchronous orbits. Greenhouse gases and global warming. Glaciers… going, going, gone. These glorious grains of sand gently groomed by the grinding power of the Pacific Ocean.

This image of Pinaki Island was captured by astronauts on the International Space Station in April 2001."

Caption by Adam Voiland. Image credit: NASA

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"Hello H, what begins with H? Haze, hurricanes, and hydrocarbons. Hawaii and Hakodate. Hummocky humus heaped on these hills in the heart of Kyrgyzstan.

On, August 30, 2014, the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 acquired this image of rivers running through colorful ridges in southwestern Kyrgyzstan."

Caption by Adam Voiland. Image credit: NASA

"What begins with I? In situ measurements and infrared radiation. Ice sheets and isthmuses. Istanbul and Ilopango. This intriguing image of India’s Andaman Island after an intimidating incident involving an earthquake.

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On February 10, 2007, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the Andaman Islands. The thin, bright rings surrounding several of the islands are coral reefs that were lifted up by a massive earthquake near Sumatra in 2004."

Caption by Adam Voiland. Image credit: NASA


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