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03/18/2017

Earth's Puzzler: What are those?!

Check out NASA's March puzzler! I was immediately intrigued. . . are you? What in the world do you think those are? Where do you think this is located? Do you think this is it recent?

March puzzler

Each month on Earth Matters they offer a puzzling satellite image. This is March's Puzzler. It was posted March 8th and people posted their guesses on NASA's website and Facebook pages for a few days. They posted the answer on March 11th! 

Here is another look at the same image, zoomed out, plus a bit more information. Any idea what these are or where it is yet? 

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 10.45.53 AM

This puzzler might surprise you! It is taken above Egypt's Western Desert! Which is very dry and that is not surprising; it is, after all, a desert. But this part of the eastern Sahara (west of the Nile River) is so dry—receiving just centimeters of rainfall per year—that researchers describe it as “hyper-arid.” As such, it seems unlikely that much would grow there.

Greenery, however, has been cropping up in the area in recent decades. On February 26, 2017, the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 captured these natural-color images of East Oweinat, one of Egypt’s land reclamation projects aimed at making some desert areas suitable for agriculture.

Both the wide and detailed images show the geometric forms of the cultivated land. The circles indicate the irrigation method: water pumped from underground is delivered to sprinklers that rotate around a central pivot point. The “fossil water” used on these fields comes from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer, which recharges slowly and is considered a non-renewable resource. But for now, that water means plants can flourish in the driest of deserts.

Agricultural development began here in the 1980s, and images from 1999 and 2001 show crops growing in parcels 1 and 2 in the southern part of East Oweinat. Research published in 2010 reported that the farming operation spanned almost 5,000 square kilometers (1,200,000 acres).

According to a 2014 news report, companies were focused on growing wheat, an important food staple in the country. One company leasing land in East Oweinat reportedly produced 40,000 tons of wheat over the course of a year. Workers can move crops and equipment via the airport on the site’s eastern side.

So was your guess close?! Let me know on my social media pages! The links are below! 

Katie McGraw's Facebook Page

Katie McGraw's Twitter Page

-Katie McGraw 

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