Glare ruins NASA's photos, too. But not for the same reason it ruins yours.

Illustration for article titled Glare ruins NASAs photos, too. But not for the same reason it ruins yours.

If you have ever angrily deleted your photos because of inappropriate glare, imagine how astronauts must feel. In this photo, which admittedly turned out well, they have to contend with the sun's glare off miles-long sections of ocean.

The picture above is a very good example of space-based landscape porn, but it's also a good example of sunglint. The photo of the island of Crete was taken by the Expedition 28 crew. There's the usual gorgeous deep blue sea, and the dark island against it, but all around the island is silver light. This is the sun, almost directly behind the photographer, shining off massive swathes of ocean.

The brightest section is clearly to the upper left hand side of the picture, with a couple of similarly silver glints off the water near the top of the island. But there's a white section of ocean all around, and even towards the bottom of the picture. That's not white water, or a measure of the depth. That's the currents around the island shifting the water so that the water angles to catch the sun and reflect it towards the camera. You can map out the way the ocean moves around Crete, from space, by looking at the sun glinting off the water.


Who wants to give me a lift to Crete right now?

Image and Explanation: Earth Observatory

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Dr Emilio Lizardo

It's too bad I didn't win the Powerball. I could have bought Crete and bailed out the Greek economy for a day.