They look like something you'd see hanging in a modern art gallery, but these images would probably be more at home on a scientist’s computer.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has put together a fourth collection of its “Earth As Art” series, which looks to find some of the most visually stunning satellite images of Earth’s surface.
The images were taken by the Landsat 8 satellite, a joint venture between the USGS and NASA that has been cruising 640 kilometers (400 miles) above Earth for 3 years, recording how humans are influencing the landscape of our planet. So, although these images may be beautiful in their own right, they’ve also been part of intense scientific exploration.
The images aren’t simply photographs, though. Landsat 8 is decked with “highly-sensitive observation instruments” capable of recording light wavelengths outside of the visible spectrum.
You can view the full collection on the USGS website, but the images will also be touring at museums across the United States, starting at the USGS headquarters in Reston, Virginia.
"This enhanced image of Western Australia resembles a mixture of crayons that melted in the sun. The yellow sand dunes of the Great Sandy Desert cover the upper right portion of the image. Red splotches indicate burned areas from grass and forest fires, and the colors in the rest of the image depict different types of surface geology." - USGS
"Geometric shapes lie across the emptiness of the Sahara Desert in southern Egypt. Each point is a center pivot irrigation field a little less than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) across. With no surface water in this region, wells pump underground water to rotating sprinklers from the huge Nubian Sandstone aquifer, which lies underneath the desert." - USGS
"The ice surrounding the northern Canadian Spicer Islands, shown in bright red, resembles a cell, complete with ribosomes, mitochondria, and a nucleus. Even though the image was captured shortly after the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the islands are locked in ice." - USGS
"A nearly perfect circle of forest delineates the boundary of Egmont National Park in New Zealand. Snow-capped Mount Taranaki marks the center of the park, which is surrounded by green farmland." - USGS
"Slessor Glacier in Antarctica flows between the angular promontory Parry Point on the top left of the image and the Shackleton Range on the lower right. The purple highlights are exposed ice. Strong winds blow away the snow cover and expose lines that indicate the glacier flow direction. Rock outcrops next to the glacier also exhibit some of this bare ice." - USGS
All images and captions credit: Landsat 8/USGS/NASA