It looks like somebody photoshopped the Canadian prairies inside the red gasses of Jupiter, but this is an actual picture, untouched, of Earth. It's a "shelf cloud" lit up by early-morning light. Photographed from the Trans-Canada highway in Saskatchewan, this shelf cloud was most likely the bleeding edge of a storm.


The photo, taken by Jeff Kerr, was the Astronomy Picture of the Day yesterday. It showcases why the shelf cloud is particularly menacing — not only does it presage a storm, but it's attached to another bank of clouds above it. So it's literally a gigantic wall of cloud leading a cold front. (Though it's not the same as a wall cloud, which trails a storm system rather than leading it.)

Also, this image shows off the amazing beauty of the Saskatchewan prairies and reminds me that sometimes Earth is the most alien-looking planet I know.