April 23, 2014
(2 April 2011) --- Bassas da India is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 27 crew member on the International Space Station. The vantage point of crew members onboard the space station provides many dramatic views of Earth's surface. This detailed photograph of the Bassas da India, an uninhabited atoll in the Indian Ocean (between the Mozambique coast of Africa and the island of Madagascar) has an almost surreal quality due to varying degrees of sunglint. Sunglint is an optical phenomena caused by light reflecting off of a water surface directly back towards the observer. Variations in the roughness of the water surface—presence or absence of waves due to wind and water currents—will cause differences in the intensity of the sunglint. The presence of other materials, such as oils or surfactants, can also change the properties of the water surface. Here the presence of currents is highlighted as darker patches or streaks (left and upper right). In contrast, shallow water in the lagoon (center) presents a more uniform, mirror-like appearance in sunglint suggesting that there are no subsurface currents present. Wave crests visible around the atoll are likely the result of both surface winds and subsurface currents. The Bassas da India atoll is part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. It is uninhabited due to its complete submergence during high tide -- there is no vegetation established on the atoll for the same reason. The atoll is approximately 10 kilometers in diameter, and covers an area (including the lagoon) of approximately 80 square kilometers.
Topics: Bassas da India, Sunglint, Physical geography, Environment, Atoll, Islands, Coastal geography, Physical oceanography