Holiday calendar: 'Starry Night' at sea

Phytoplankton glows green around Sweden's Gotland Island in an image acquired by the Landsat 7 satellite on July 13, 2005. NASA / GSFC / USGS / Abrams
"Earth from Space" features satellite imagery with an environmental twist. Abrams / Goodplanet Foundation

Greenish phytoplankton swirls in the dark water surrounding Sweden's Gotland Island in the Baltic Sea, evoking the look of Vincent van Gogh's famous painting "Starry Night."This masterpiece was acquired by the Landsat 7 satellite in 2005, and ranks as one of the top five images from the 41-year-long Landsat Earth observation program.

Plankton blooms like the one seen here occur when deep currents bring nutrients up to sunlit surface waters, fueling the proliferation of the tiny marine plants. This Swedish sea scene is one of more than 150 satellite vistas offered in "Earth From Space," a coffee-table book assembled by environmentalist photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

Look for more pictures from "Earth From Space" in future installments of our Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, a photographic series that runs through Christmas. For still more holiday goodies, check out The Atlantic's Hubble Advent CalendarZooniverse's Advent calendar and the Galileo's Pendulum Science Advent Calendar.

Previously on the Space Advent Calendar:

Alan Boyle is's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with's stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.