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See the Algerian Sahara From Space

It’s pretty spectacular

In early July, Sentinel-2A captured this image of the Sahara in central Algeria. (Copernicus Sentinel data (2015)/ESA)
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The Sahara desert stretches across 3.6 million square miles of northern Africa, including most of Algeria. That might conjure a mental image endless, rolling sand dunes and relentless heat, but now you can see what it really looks like. From space at least.

A new image snapped by a European Space Agency satellite called Sentinel-2A shows that desert topography can be complicated, as Maddie Stone reports for Gizmodo.

Released by the ESA on July 10, the image covers a swatch of land just sound of Algeria’s El Ménia oasis. A dune protrudes into center amid arid ridges and valleys. The light line that cuts the image in half vertically is actually an important trade route in the region.

The satellite launched in late June, and it’s tasked with tracking how Earth’s vegetation changes. Observing from above, satellites like Sentinal-2A have proved extremely adept at helping scientists keep tabs on harsh, hard to reach environments like the Sahara.

Here are some equally impressive shots of the desert taken by Sentinal-2A and other ESA satellites:

Sentinel-2A took this image showing more of the Sahara's rocky terrain on June 27, 2015. (Copernicus data (2015)/ESA)
Rocky areas turn into sandy dunes in shot of the heart of the Sahara in southern Algeria. Japan’s ALOS satellite recorded this image on January 28, 2011. (JAXA/ESA)
Radar images, like this one of the Sahara's Tanezrouft Basin in 2009, reveal how rough a surface is based on the brightness of the pixels. (ESA)
Here's a full length version of the Sentinel 2A image above. (Copernicus Sentinel data (2015)/ESA)
About Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson writes about science and culture for Smithsonian. She's previously written for NPR, National Geographic News, Nature and others.

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