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December 10, 2005

The snow-covered Alps are clearly visible in this image acquired on November 20, 2005. The Alps cover parts of Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, France, Germany, Lichtenstein, and Austria.

The Alps were formed when the plates that comprise the continents of Eurasia and Africa collided during the last 20-30 million years. The peaks and valleys that we see today were largely formed by glaciation during the last 2 million years or so.

Glaciers in this area have been retreating for about the last 10,000 years, leaving behind some of the region's lakes, such as Neuchatel and Geneva.

About 15% of the Alps are protected in parks and reserves; common species in the region include ibex, chamois, woodchuck, snow grouse, snow mouse, and Alpine daw.

The center of this image is located close to the village of Ispra, Italy. The village has about 5,000 residents and is home to the Institute for Environment and Sustainability of the Joint Research Centre (JRC), a scientific research organization administered by the European Commission.

Ispra is also part of the AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET), a consortium of researchers committed to sharing their data and information for the benefit of science. Instruments here measure the atmosphere from the ground, providing data that are used to, among other things, calibrate satellite images such as this one.

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