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Cool Image: 47-Mile Glacier Atop
The Fedchenko Glacier, seen in this false-color image taken by the Landsat 5 satellite on Oct. 2, 2011, is 47 miles (77 kilometers) long.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Atop the "roof of the world," one of the world's longest glaciers moves imperceptibly down the mountain. Called the Fedchenko Glacier, seen in this false-color image taken by the Landsat 5 satellite on Oct. 2, 2011, it is 47 miles (77 kilometers) long.

Centered in eastern Tajikistan, the Pamir Mountains soar to heights of 24,000 feet (7,300 meters), according to a release from NASA. Covered in snow and thousands of glaciers, they are central Asia's water towers. Nearly 90 percent of people in central Eurasia depend on mountain water to drink and use in agriculture and energy. 

The glaciers appear cyan due to the false-color of the image, which is meant to highlight water in the area.

The melt waters of Fedchenko Glacier feed into the Muksu, Vakhsh and Amu Darya rivers, which eventually make their way to the Aral Sea some 1,200 miles (2,000 km) away. Due to diversions of water from these rivers for drinking and agriculture, the Aral Sea has been shrinking for the last 50 years.

The glacier drops 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) in elevation from beginning to end. At the highest elevations, the glacier is covered in snow and ice, but as it flows downstream it picks up rocks that have fallen from above, which can be seen as reddish lines in the satellite image. These are called medial moraines.

Since 1933, Fedchenko Glacier has shrunk by 4,600 feet (1,400 meters) due to increased temperatures in the area, NASA said.

The area is home to snow leopards and other amazing animals like ibex.

The "roof of the world" is a term for the Himalayas and its surrounding peaks, which comprise the biggest, tallest mountain range on the planet.

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