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June 30, 2011
Easily recognizable in this STS-100 70mm frame are phenomena known as the von Karman vortices, which were forming in the stratocumulus field downwind from the volcanic island of Rishiri-to in the northern Sea of Japan off the northwest coast of Hokkaido, Japan. According to NASA scientists studying the STS-100 photo collection, these features form when a stable atmosphere with low clouds flows past a relatively small obstacle with a height greater than the depth of the cloud layer. Because the atmosphere is stable, a series of eddies form in the moving cloud field.