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Australia from Space: Part 4

MORE WONDERFUL IMAGES of Australia’s coastline, courtesy of the European Envisat Earth-monitoring satellite. Envisat was launched in March 2002 and at 8.5-tonnes is one of the largest satellites ever put into orbit. It circles the Earth every 101 minutes from north to south.

Satellite image of the Great Barrier Reef

An Envisat MERIS image of the Great Barrier Reef centred on Cape York Peninsula. Taken on 19 August 2004, this MERIS Full Resolution mode images has a spatial resolution of 300 metres.

Satellite image of the Southern Great Barrier Reef

This Envisat image features the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s Queensland coast. It is the world’s most protected marine area, one of its natural wonders and a World Heritage site. Spanning more than 2,000 km and covering an area of some 350,000 sq km, it is the largest living structure on Earth and the only one visible from space. This image was acquired by Envisat’s Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) on 8 November 2010 at a resolution of 300 metres

Satellite image of the Northern Great Barrier Reef

Another view of the Great Barrier Reef. Australian researchers have discovered that Envisat's Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) sensor can detect coral bleaching down to 10 metres depth. This means Envisat could potentially map coral bleaching on a global scale. MERIS acquired this image on 18 May 2008, working in Full Resolution mode to yield a spatial resolution of 300 metres.

Close up of the sea off northwestern WA

Sea and coral atolls off the West Australian coast, as seen by Envisat's MERIS ocean colour sensor.

Earlier Australia from Space pictorials:

Australia from Space: Part 1

Australia from Space: Part 2

Australia from Space: Part 3

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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Australia from Space: Part 2

Kimberley shoreline, Western Australia

The Kimberley is a large region in northern Western Australia. Bordered on the north by the Timor Sea, it is the place where the ancestors of Australia's indigenous inhabitants are thought to have landed after crossing from the Indonesian archipelago. This image shows only a small part of the Kimberley coastline.

THESE BEAUTIFUL IMAGES of the Australian coastline and islands were taken by European astronaut Paolo Nespoli from his vantage point aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS circles the globe in every 91 minutes, with different parts of our planet’s surface visible underneath each orbit as the Earth rotates.

Elizabeth Reef

Elizabeth Reef in the Tasman Sea, is a coral reef that measures about 8 kilometres long by 5.5 kilometres wide. It is located 45 kilometres from Middleton Reef (see next photo), 160 kilometres from Lord Howe Island, and a little over 500 kilometres from the coast of New South Wales. The reef, normally almost fully submerged except at low tide, has claimed a number of shipwrecks during the years, including a yacht in 2007, whose lone British sailor was winched to safety by a Royal Australian Navy helicopter.

Middleton Reef

Middleton Reef is a twin of Elizabeth Reef, located only 45 kilometres away, and around 200 kilometres from Lord Howe Island. It's almost the same size too, being just 8.9 kilometres long by 6.3 kilometres wide. Like Elizabeth Reef, Middleton is almost entirely submerged except at low tide.

King Sound, Western Australia

King Sound is a gulf in northwestern Western Australia, fed by the Fitzroy River. It has the highest tides in Australia, reaching a height of 11.4 metres at Derby, a town on the shore of the Sound. William Dampier was the first European to explore the Sound, in 1688 aboard the ship Cygnet. This image shows only a small part of the Sound, the full dimensions of which are 120 kilometres in length by 50 kilometres width.

Section of the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef, which stretches 2,600 kilometres along Queensland's coastline, is the world's largest reef system. It has almost 3,000 separate reefs, around 900 islands and covers an area of just under 350,000 square kilometres. This image shows only a tiny part of it.

Adapted from information issued by ESA / NASA.

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Great Barrier Reef from orbit

Envisat image of the Great Barrier Reef

Australia's 2,000-kilometre-long Great Barrier Reef seen from space by the Envisat satellite.

THIS IMAGE FROM Europe’s Envisat satellite shows the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s Queensland coast. It is the world’s most protected marine area, one of its natural wonders and a World Heritage site.

Spanning more than 2,000 kilometres in length and covering an area of some 350,000 square kilometres, it is the largest living structure on Earth and the only one visible from space.

The image was acquired by Envisat’s Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) on 8 November 2010, providing a resolution of 300 metres per pixel.

See the full-size (1.5MB) image here.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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The Whitsunday Islands

The Whitsunday Islands, seen from orbit

The Whitsunday Islands, seen from orbit

The Whitsunday Islands are a collection of 74 islands sandwiched between the Australian mainland and the outer atolls of the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the island chain is protected national park within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, though a number of resorts and camping areas exist on the islands.

This photo-like image of the core of the Whitsunday Islands was acquired by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) instrument on NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite. The entire chain of islands and the outer reef section of the Great Barrier Reef appear in the large image.

The scene is dominated by the largest island and namesake of the chain. Deep green forest covers most of Whitsunday Island, which is outlined by brilliant white sand beaches, the largest and most dramatic being Whitehaven Beach at the south-eastern end of the island.

On Hamilton Island, the strong linear feature at the southern end shows where a jet-accessible runway was added to allow airlines from major Australian cities to fly directly to the islands. The swirls of pale blue around the islands show a mix of sandy bottom waters and shallow, fringing coral reefs. The green land in the southwestern corner of the image is a small section of Conway Ranges National Park, on the shoreline of mainland Queensland.

The island’s name comes from the journals of Captain James Cook who sailed through the area in early June 1770. He christened the largest island in honour of the date he arrived, Whit Sunday, the seventh Sunday after Easter. (The name stuck even after it was discovered that a date error meant it was actually Monday when Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, arrived.)

The islands, parks, and resorts of the Whitsunday Islands are among the most popular tourist destinations for visitors to the Great Barrier Reef; boat trips from the mainland and Hamilton Island take visitors to the Outer Reef and to destinations in and around the islands. The waters between the mainland and these islands was used during the Second World War as a shelter from storms (and detection by Japanese forces) for the US Navy prior to the Battle of the Coral Sea.

NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data provided by the United States Geological Survey. Caption adapted from information issued by Jesse Allen.