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Cloud Formations and Sunglint over Italy Seen from the ISS

Published by Matt on Mon Dec 21, 2009 1:05 pm via: Earth Observatory
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This astronaut photograph shows the Calabria region of southern Italy—the toe of Italy’s “boot”—outlined by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas to the southeast and northwest respectively.

Cloud Formations and Sunglint, Italy. Credit: NASA

Cloud Formations and Sunglint, Italy. Credit: NASA

The water surfaces present a mirror-like appearance due to sunglint. This phenomenon is caused by sunlight reflecting off the water surface directly back towards the astronaut observer on board the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS was located over northwestern Romania, approximately 1,040 kilometers to the northeast of Calabria, when this image was taken.

The Calabrian Peninsula appears shortened and distorted due to the extreme sideways viewing angle from the ISS. Such a perspective is termed oblique, as opposed to a nadir view, in which the astronaut is looking directly downwards towards the Earth’s surface from the ISS. This highly oblique view also highlights two distinct cloud patterns over the Calabrian interior. Patchy, highly textured cumulus clouds are present at lower altitudes, while grey altostratus clouds are stretched out by prevailing winds at higher altitudes. The Strait of Messina, just visible at image upper right, marks the boundary between the coastline of Italy and the island of Sicily.

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