(ORDO NEWS) — An astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) recently took a stunning photo of a “sun flare” that turned the surface of the sea into a spinning silver mirror surrounding a pair of Greek islands.
Any photographer knows that capturing a beautiful moment in a frame is an incredible stroke of luck. And to do this from space is several times more difficult.
A member of the ISS Expedition 67 crew took the picture on June 25 with a digital camera from the station window.
Most of the landmass in the center of the photo is the 151-square-kilometre island of Milos and its tiny uninhabited partner to the west, Antimilos, which measures about 8 square kilometers.
The silvery seas surrounding the islands are the Myrtoan Sea to the northwest of Milos and the Cretan Sea to the southwest, both of which are part of the larger Mediterranean Sea.
How did the silver mirror appear on the surface of the sea?
Sun glare can be seen by observers in space as sunlight bounces off particularly calm seas or other flat bodies of water with little to no loss.
This is similar to the way light bounces off a calm sea during sunrise or sunset as seen from Earth, creating a brilliant streak on the surface; but from space, the band looks like a huge silvery spot, often covering several hundred square kilometers. As the Earth rotates, it seems that the spot also rotates.
The wavy lines and swirls in the image that cross the silver surface of the sea, like scratches on a mirror, are caused by surface currents created by the wind and deeper sea currents below the surface, as well as rarer phenomena such as internal waves moving under the surface of the water, and cycles.
Most of these features usually go unnoticed from space, but because they scatter some of the sunlight, they become especially noticeable during a solar flare.
According to NASA‘s Earth Observatory, another notable feature is the long, straight line in the lower left corner of the image, which is most likely the wake of a ship that was moving rapidly across the surface.
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