Geography

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

The waters of Lake Erie drain into Lake Ontario via the Niagara River, which cuts across a 25-mile-wide stretch of land along the US/Canada border separating the two Great Lakes. The peaceful serenity of the river is interrupted, to say the least, about halfway toward its destination. I’m guessing the first word spoken after its discovery was either “wow”, or “oops”.

Lifeboats over the Caspian Sea

Lifeboats over the Caspian Sea

The International Space Station was passing over Turkmenistan on July 26, 2015 when a crewmember shot this image of the southern extent of the Caspian Sea. The brilliant concentration of light at dead center, set somewhat inland from the coast, is the capital city of Iran - Tehran. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is the bright area protruding into the Caspian in the lower right third of the image.

The Iberian Peninsula

The Iberian Peninsula

Lighting up the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula in the lower center of this image from November of 2017 is the only European capital city to lie on the Atlantic coast - Lisbon, Portugal. The intensity of its electric light output contrasts its legacy as one of the oldest cities in the world - older by centuries than either Paris or London, and even older than Rome. 

Canal, Canali, Cannoli - Close Enough?

The late nineteenth century was all about canal building. The Suez Canal (pictured here) was completed in 1869, and reduced the travel distance between the North Atlantic and northern Indian Oceans by 4,300 miles by creating a shortcut from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, through Egypt. The Panama Canal went online a mere eleven years later.

Telescopes were getting bigger and better at this time as well, and astronomers were spending long hours staring at neighboring planets (astrophotography wasn’t a thing yet) and mapping any discernible surface features their optics would resolve. In 1877 Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli observed a number of what he believed to be naturally occuring “canali”, an Italian word meaning “channels”, on the Martian surface. The word’s similarity to the English word “canal”, which refers specifically to an artificial waterway, led to years of bad astronomy in the person of well-to-do American astronomer Percival Lowell. Lowell devoted much of his later career to advancing his theory that the canals had been constructed by intelligent beings in order to redirect badly-needed water from the Martian poles to population centers nearer the planet’s equator.

Although most of Lowell’s contemporaries dismissed his ideas, it wasn’t until the Mars Mariner missions in the 1960s that remote sensing data could definitively prove him wrong.

Science Link: https://www.space.com/13197-mars-canals-water-history-lowell.html

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Citrus groves along the sandy shores of Florida’s ‘Space Coast’ share the land with groves of launch complexes - towering structures whose fruit is the knowledge gained through the exploration of space. The Banana River, which separates Cape Canaveral from Merritt Island, appears in the lower right. In the upper right an enormous cruise ship can be seen exiting Port Canaveral, America’s busiest cruise port, probably on its way to an adventure somewhere in the Caribbean. A runway, oriented to take advantage of the prevailing offshore winds, sits directly center.