Colorful Pilbara: 3.6 billion years of geological history

Teaser image source: NASA / METI / AIST / Japan Space Systems and US / Japan ASTER Science Team

Earth’s history is colorful: some of the world’s oldest rocks are found in Pilbara, in northwest Australia. The image from the Terra satellite makes it shine and sparkle with all the colors of the rainbow.

At an altitude of about 705 kilometers, NASA’s Terra satellite has been orbiting the Earth every hundred minutes since 1999. Also on board: the Advanced Space Reflective and Thermal Emission Radiometer (ASTER). ASTER captures high-resolution images (15 to 90 square meters per pixel) of Earth in 14 different wavelengths of light, from visible light to thermal infrared. In this way, psychedelic color images are sometimes created.

Looking back at Earth’s history

This also applies to the image taken by ASTER of the Pilbara region in northwest Australia. However, it owes its coloration not only to the fact that it is a composite of the 4-2-1 bands and displayed in RGB, but also to its unique geology. Finally, some of the world’s oldest evidence of geological history can be found in Pilbara: more than 3.6 billion years old, iron-bearing rocks. When they formed, there was no oxygen in the atmosphere or life on Earth. Later, about 3.45 years ago, colonies of cyanobacteria settled on it and formed stromatolites, layered structures.

These recordings and data are used in science to create detailed maps of Earth’s temperature, emissivity, reflectance, and surface. In this way, for example, it is possible to monitor the development of glaciers, but also possible active volcanoes or the disappearance of coral reefs. (maybe)

Source: NASA / METI / AIST / Japan Space Systems and US / Japan ASTER Science Team

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Pilbara from orbit.

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