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Science News

Our fragile Earth

Images from outer space highlight the fragility — and the resilience — of our beautiful blue planet.

 / Updated 13 PHOTOS
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Blue Marble

Ho / NASA
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Stretching across part of southwestern Bangladesh and southeastern India, the Sundarbans is the largest remaining tract of mangrove forest in the world. The Sundarbans is a tapestry of waterways, mudflats, and forested islands at the edge of the Bay of Bengal. Home to the endangered Bengal tiger, sharks, crocodiles, and freshwater dolphins, as well as nearly two hundred bird species, this low-lying plain is part of the Mouths of the Ganges. The area has been protected for decades by the two countries as a National Park, despite the large human populations concentrated to the north.
This satellite image shows the forest in the protected area. The Sundarbans appears deep green, surrounded to the north by a landscape of agricultural lands, which appear lighter green, towns, which appear tan, and streams, which are blue. Ponds for shrimp aquaculture, especially in Bangladesh, sit right at the edge of the protected area, a potential problem for the water quality and biodiversity of the area. The forest may also be under stress from environmental disturbance occurring thousands of kilometers away, such as deforestation in the Himalaya Mountains far to the north.
To date, the Sundarbans has been a good example of how ecosystems can be protected and sustainably used by the people who live there. For example, the region is home to a network of tiger preserves in which populations of the Bengal tiger appear to have grown in the past few decades (monitoring is difficult in the swampy, densely forested terrain). However, human population in India and Bangladesh is growing far more rapidly, and the growth will likely intensify the pressure on the area and increase the challenge of maintaining a biologically diverse and healthy ecosystem.
This image was created by merging Landsat 7 satellite observations from November 24, 1999, and November 17 and 26, 2000.

Natural tapestry

Stretching across part of southwestern Bangladesh and southeastern India, the Sundarbans is the largest remaining tract of mangrove forest in the world. The Sundarbans is a tapestry of waterways, mudflats, and forested islands at the edge of the Bay of Bengal. Home to the endangered Bengal tiger, sharks, crocodiles, and freshwater dolphins, as well as nearly two hundred bird species, this low-lying plain is part of the Mouths of the Ganges. The area has been protected for decades by the two countries as a National Park, despite the large human populations concentrated to the north. This satellite image shows the forest in the protected area. The Sundarbans appears deep green, surrounded to the north by a landscape of agricultural lands, which appear lighter green, towns, which appear tan, and streams, which are blue. Ponds for shrimp aquaculture, especially in Bangladesh, sit right at the edge of the protected area, a potential problem for the water quality and biodiversity of the area. The forest may also be under stress from environmental disturbance occurring thousands of kilometers away, such as deforestation in the Himalaya Mountains far to the north. To date, the Sundarbans has been a good example of how ecosystems can be protected and sustainably used by the people who live there. For example, the region is home to a network of tiger preserves in which populations of the Bengal tiger appear to have grown in the past few decades (monitoring is difficult in the swampy, densely forested terrain). However, human population in India and Bangladesh is growing far more rapidly, and the growth will likely intensify the pressure on the area and increase the challenge of maintaining a biologically diverse and healthy ecosystem. This image was created by merging Landsat 7 satellite observations from November 24, 1999, and November 17 and 26, 2000.
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Image: US-SPACE-ISS-CONTRAILS

Trails in the sky

This NASA handout image captured by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Staion(ISS) on April 6, 2013, shows contrails from jet traffic over San Francisco. AFP PHOTO/HANDOUT/ NASA / Chris Hadfield = RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / NASA / Chris Hadfield " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS =Chris Hadfield/AFP/Getty Images
Chris Hadfield / AFP
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Where roses bloom

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Nor'easter!

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Image: US-SPACE-ISS-NILE-SINAI

Miles and miles of the Nile

This NASA handout image captured by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Staion(ISS) on March 20, 2013, shows the Nile River, the Nile River delta, the Sinai Peninsula and beyond. AFP PHOTO/HANDOUT/ NASA / Chris Hadfield = RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / NASA / Chris Hadfield " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS =Chris Hadfield/AFP/Getty Images
Chris Hadfield / AFP
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Clouds from both sides

From the International Space Station: Morning clouds cast self-important shadows off the coast of China on Feb. 9. 2013. pic.twitter.com/kxDJPNGw
Chris Hadfield Via Twitter
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Gripping the ground

View from the International Space Station on Feb. 20, 2013. Arid fingers of sand-blasted rock look like they're barely holding on against the hot Saharan wind. pic.twitter.com/CKRpDKy8
Chris Hadfield
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Crazy quilt

Patchwork of farms covered in snow in Central Asia as seen from space. MISP
Cmdr. Chris Hadfield
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Blue Danube

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Mountains in the Sahara

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Volcano comes alive

Nasa / X00653
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Good night!

NASA Earth Observatory The night lights of the Americas shine in this visualization of our planet at night, which is based on data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October. The image, released by NASA Earth Observatory today, has been nicknamed the "Black Marble."
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