Discovering the Amazon from Above: Magnificent ISS Photographs of the World’s Biggest River System

Amazing images of the Amazon River and its tributaries taken from the International Space Station (ISS) show the world’s largest river system from a new perspective.

The Juruá River is the most winding river in the Amazon Basin. With a calculated length of 3,200 km (2,000 mi), it is one of the longest tributaries of the Amazon River (click to enlarge). Image credit: Alexander Gerst/ESA/NASA

The Amazon River is one of the most important and awe-inspiring natural features on the planet, stretching over 4,000 miles (6,400 km) through South America and flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. It is the largest river in the world by volume, and its vast network of tributaries supports an incredible diversity of plant and animal life.

One astronaut who has had the privilege of seeing the Amazon River from space is Alexander Gerst. Gerst is from Germany and has spent over 360 days in space, including a six-month mission aboard the ISS in 2018. During his time in orbit, Gerst took many photographs of the Earth’s surface, including stunning images of the Amazon River and its tributaries.

The Amazon River and its tributaries, as seen from the International Space Station (click to enlarge). Image credit: Alexander Gerst/ESA/NASA

One of Gerst’s most impressive images shows the Amazon River as it flows through the heart of the rainforest, surrounded by a lush green landscape. From space, it is easy to see how the river and its tributaries weave their way through the jungle, creating a network of waterways that are essential for the survival of countless species of plants and animals.

One interesting feature of the Amazon River that is visible from space is the way it changes color throughout the year. During the wet season, which lasts from December to May, the river and its tributaries swell with rainwater, turning a muddy brown color. This is in stark contrast to the dry season, which lasts from June to November, when the river’s water level drops and its color shifts to a deep blue-green.

Another of Gerst’s images captures the river in the midst of this seasonal variation, showing the Amazon as a swirling mix of browns and greens, with ribbons of blue cutting through the landscape.

The mighty Amazon photographed from the ISS while flooding (click to enlarge). Image credit: Alexander Gerst/ESA/NASA

The image also shows the impact of human activity on the region. In some areas, deforestation has left large patches of bare land, while in others, the forest remains untouched. The contrast between the untouched forest and the cleared land is stark and highlights the importance of protecting the Amazon rainforest and its ecosystems.

The Amazon River and its tributaries play a crucial role in the Earth’s hydrological cycle, with the river alone discharging an average of 209,000 cubic meters of water per second into the Atlantic Ocean. The river and the surrounding forests are also a vital carbon sink, absorbing and storing significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The increasing number of human-made patches are therefore more than worrying.

“Shocking to see from up here, how much of the Amazon rainforest is actually gone now,” reads the caption to this photo. Alexander Gerst/ESA/NASA

In conclusion, these amazing images of the Amazon River and its tributaries captured by Alexander Gerst from space not only provide beautiful and awe-inspiring views of one of the world’s most significant river systems, but also stand as a reminder of the importance of preserving the Amazon rainforest and its ecosystems for upcoming generations. Whether future astronauts will be able to capture similar images is all up to us.

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