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The huge ship stuck in the Suez Canal seen in photos from space

An Airbus-built Pleiades Earth-observation satellite captured this view of the Ever Given container ship stuck in the Suez Canal on March 25, 2021.  (Image credit: Airbus)

A massive container ship's embarrassing and inconvenient predicament is visible from space.

Tiny Earth-observing Dove satellites operated by San Francisco-based company Planet have spied the giant cargo ship that's blocking Egypt's Suez Canal, as well as the traffic jam caused by the huge vessel's plight. The Airbus-built Pleiades Earth-observing satellite also captured a stunning close-up of the stuck ship early Thursday morning (March 25).

The 1,300-foot-long (400 meters) ship, called Ever Given, ran aground while traversing the canal on Tuesday morning (March 23). It's now lodged sideways across the Suez, preventing other ships from coming or going along this busy trade route that connects the Mediterranean and Red seas.

Related: Photos of Earth by Planet satellites

A relative close-up of the container ship Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal, captured by one of Planet's Dove cubesats on March 24, 2021.  (Image credit: Planet Labs, Inc.)

Dredging crews, salvage operators and other personnel are working hard to free the Ever Given, but it may take weeks to open the canal to ship traffic again, NPR reported on Thursday (March 25).

Planet managed to give the world a bird's-eye view of the maritime mess with its fleet of Doves, shoebox-sized cubesats that are capable of resolving features as small as 10 feet wide (3 meters) on Earth's surface.

An Airbus-built Pleiades Earth-observation satellite captured this view of the Ever Given container ship stuck in the Suez Canal on March 25, 2021.  (Image credit: Airbus)

Dove imagery captured on Wednesday (March 24) provides a relative close-up of the beached Ever Given, for example. And wider-view photos snapped on Thursday show the mired ship and a queue of cargo vessels, which are waiting to enter the blocked canal from the Red Sea. 

The view from Airbus' Pleiades satellite taken early Thursday morning shows even more detail, with container ship clearly visible. Individual containers on the ship can be discerned in the high-resolution view.

This photo, captured by one of Planet's Dove Earth-imaging cubesats on March 25, shows the container ship Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal (top left) and the queue of ships waiting to enter the canal from the Red Sea. (Image credit: Planet Labs, Inc.)

More than 350 Planet satellites have reached orbit to date, and more than 150 are operational at the moment. This number fluctuates often, because the company regularly launches new versions of its eyes in the sky and de-orbits older models.

The vast majority of Planet's orbiting craft are in the Dove family, though the company also operates a small constellation of larger, sharper-eyed SkySat satellites. The company sells the imagery captured by these spacecraft to a variety of customers but also routinely releases photos free of charge, especially those that are in the public interest.

Planet has made freely available images that can inform the response to earthquakes and other natural disasters, for example. The company also released pictures that captured the aftermath of Iranian missile attacks on Iraqi military bases in January 2020.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

Mike Wall
Michael was a science writer for the Idaho National Laboratory and has been an intern at Wired.com, The Salinas Californian newspaper, and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. He has also worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.