“Red Planet” or “Sahara Desert”? This NASA photo is “too hot to handle”
NASA shared a stunning view of Earth’s largest desert, the Sahara Desert, in its latest Instagram post. The image was captured by NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough from the International Space Station and could very well be mistaken for the Red Planet, the U.S. space agency said. The caption, which begins with “Too hot to handle” seems appropriate given that this is one of the most difficult terrains on Earth. The note attached to the image reads: “You might be surprised to find that this is actually not a picture of our neighboring red planet – it is the Sahara Desert. “
The NASA memo further states that the Sahara Desert “is one of the harshest environments on our planet: the largest hot desert on Earth.”
Sharing more information on the ecosystem, the space agency says data from their satellites revealed that “the wind and weather in the Sahara picks up an average of 182 million tonnes of dust from the deserts of Africa and carries it every year 1,600 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. ”To put that into perspective, NASA says,“ This volume equates to 689,290 semi-trucks filled with dust.
So what does this dust do? According to NASA, “This dust helps build beaches in the Caribbean and fertilizes the soils of the Amazon. This affects the air quality in North and South America. It could also play a role in “the suppression of hurricanes and the decline of coral reefs,” the note adds.
The image sparked a range of emotions among viewers, many of whom expressed the same in the comments section.
Thanking the agency, one user said: “Thank you NASA for all you do for scientific exploration”, while another wrote: “Such an informative article”.
“And to know it’s on earth, it’s just amazing,” said another.
The Sahara Desert is an area of 3,600,000 square miles (9,200,000 square kilometers) of arid land located in the northern part of Africa. In terms of size, it is only “slightly smaller than the continental United States,” NASA said.
In a recent study conducted by NASA, it was estimated that there would be less Saharan dust carried by winds in the future. According to a report released in April 2021, NASA said that “scientists, using a combination of satellite data and computer models, predict that Africa’s annual dust plumes will in fact decrease to a low of 20,000. years over the next century due to climate change and warming oceans. The study was carried out following the June 2020 dust plume dubbed “Godzilla” which traveled from the Sahara to North America, to across the Atlantic Ocean.
As it travels across the Atlantic, Saharan dust spreads into the ocean, “feeding marine life, and likewise plant life once it makes landfall,” the report said. Not only that, the dust also contains minerals such as iron and phosphorus, which serve as fertilizer for the Amazon rainforest.