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ABSTRACT EARTH; Space views are magic.

Byline: By MIKE SWAIN Science Editor

HERE is the world in all its wonder - captured from space in photographs as beautiful as anything from an artist's brush.

These remarkable pictures come from US space agency Nasa's satellite Earth observatory. From the sand dunes of Algeria to the waters of the South Atlantic, they reveal the power and majesty of nature and the astonishingly varied world in which we live.

Some were taken by astronauts, others by satellites, but they all tell stories about Earth's magical landscapes and how, in some cases, man is changing them.

Pictures: Nasa/Space Imaging/OrbImage

ULURU (AYERS ROCK), AUSTRALIA

IN the heart of the Australian Outback, a massive block of red sandstone rises up out of the near-perfect flatness of the eroded landscape. Uluru is the largest single rock known in the world - a mighty monolith 348 metres (1,142ft) high, 3.6km (2.2 miles) long and 9.4km (5.8 miles) around. This awe-inspiring image of Uluru and the surrounding terrain was captured by Space Imaging's Ikonos satellite on January 17, 2004.

LAKE NATRON, TANZANIA

THIS image shows the characteristic colours of lakes where very high evaporation occurs. As water evaporates during the dry season, salinity levels increase until salt-loving organisms begin to thrive, producing red pigments in the open water and orange in the shallow water. The lake is quite shallow, less than three metres deep, and in this section of the southern half it is about 10 kilometres wide.

MALOSMADULU ATOLLS, MALDIVES

THE Maldives are made up of a chain of 1,192 small coral islands, which are grouped into clusters of atolls lying just a metre above sea level in the northern Indian Ocean, south-west of India. This natural-colour ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) image of the Malosmadulu Atolls was recorded on December 22, 2002.

MOUNT UBINAS, PERU

A FAINT white plume rises from the summit of the Ubinas volcano on May 8, 2006, in this image captured by a heat-sensitive radiometer on Nasa's Terra satellite. Peru's most active volcano forced evacuations on April 21 after a series of explosions sent ash, gas, and lava fragments more than three kilometres into the air. Ubinas sits in southern Peru, due west of Lake Titicaca.

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, USA

AT 86 metres (282ft) below sea level, Death Valley in California is one of the hottest, driest places on the planet. Summer temperatures soar above 38C (100F). At night, they drop sharply and plants and animals living in this punishing environment have had to adapt to extremes of temperature and aridity. In this image, green indicates vegetation and shades of brown, beige, and rust show bare ground. The bright blue-green patches are salt pans.

SIMPSON DESERT, AUSTRALIA

BRIGHT orange fire scars show up the underlying dune sand in the desert 300km east of Alice Springs. The background is an intricate pattern of sand cordons that angle across from lower left to upper right. These were once shifting but have become tied down by a vegetation mat of desert scrub. The fire scars are fairly recent and will become less distinct as vegetation grows back. Shot with an 800mm lens on a Kodak 760C digital camera.

KEBIRA CRATER, NORTH AFRICA

THIS 31km-diameter crater in Egypt - unknown until revealed by satellite images earlier this year - was formed when a massive meteorite hit the desert. This Landsat 7 satellite image shows the crater with pale fields of shifting sand surrounding the darker sandstone that bears the impression of the impact. The outer rim is mostly buried by sand. Dr Farouk El-Baz, who found it, named the crater Kebira, which means large in Arabic.

DYKES AND SEAWALLS, NETHERLANDS

AFTER the great floods of 1953, the Delta Works project transformed the southernmost coastal province of Zeeland. Islands are linked by dykes and seawalls, and rivers and estuaries once open to the North Sea are enclosed as lakes. The patchwork of green, cream and lavender colours shows fields in various stages of growth or harvest. Light purple sandbars sit below the surface of the water.

VOLGA RIVER DELTA, RUSSIA

THE deep green braids of the river fan into a broad delta on the north-west shore of the Caspian Sea. More than 500 channels flow from the river into the sea, creating a web of wetlands that supports hundreds of species of birds, fish, and plants. The delta is famous for caviare-producing sturgeon. While most of the green in the sea appears to be diluted mud, some may be phytoplankton or algal blooms.

BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS IN SOUTH ATLANTIC

OFF the southern tip of South America, a jet of cold water branches off the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which loops in a continuous eastward-flowing cycle in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. This offshoot flows north until it meets the warm, south-flowing Brazil current. This natural-colour image shows chlorophyll concentrations in shades of blue (lower concentrations) to yellow (higher).

TO SEE MORE AMAZING PICTURES GO TO: MIRROR.CO.UK

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HIGH SPY: Terra satellite
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 16, 2006
Words:836
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