Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features an astronaut photograph of the San Luis Valley along the border of Colorado and New Mexico. At an altitude of 8,100 feet, the San Luis Valley is one of the largest high desert valleys in the world.
“Extinct volcanoes speckle the southern margin of the valley – an area known as the Taos Plateau Volcanic Field. Free-standing mountains in the volcanic field, such as San Antonio and Ute, are lava domes that were formed during eruptions almost 3 million years ago,” reports NASA.
The Rio Grande flows from the San Juan Mountains through the center of the valley and continues south. According to NASA, the river has provided water and irrigation to people in the American Southwest for thousands of years, including the community of Native Americans that live in Taos.
The Taos Plateau has served as a primary field training area since the 1960s during the Apollo era.
“The San Luis Valley served as a planetary analog for the Apollo 15 lunar landing site at Hadley Rille,” says NASA. “The southern area of the valley contains igneous rock structures similar to those on the lunar surface. Such field training prepares current and future astronauts for exploration of the Moon and Mars.”
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory