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Earth as Art: Clouds Shadows & Sunglint
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station snapped this photo of clouds, their shadows and sunglint over the Pacific Ocean.
Credit: NASA

The patterns and shadows of clouds along with the sun's rays reflecting off the Pacific Ocean produced a scene reminiscent of an abstract painting in this photo taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station.

The ISS was located over the Andes Mountains of central Chile, looking back towards the Pacific Ocean as the sun was setting in the west (towards the upper right), when this photo was taken on May 15.

The yellowish color at the top of the image is sunglint, a phenomenon that occurs when light from the setting sun reflects off the water surface and creates a mirror-like appearance.

The clouds in the image are relatively low-altitude cumulus clouds; their west-facing sides are illuminated by the setting sun, while the rest of them remains in shadow. The low sun angle also casts shadows of the clouds on the ocean surface.

The clouds are likely a remnant of a frontal system that moved in from the Pacific and over inland South America a day or two prior to when the image was taken, according to a NASA release.