The Atacama Desert on the west coast of South America

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the west coast of South America. The photo was captured by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station while orbiting over the Atacama Desert and Central Andes Mountains near the border of Bolivia, Peru, and Chile.

“Over the Pacific Ocean, marine stratocumulus clouds develop over cold water that rises from the ocean depths as the Peru current (Humboldt current) flows north along the west coast of South America,” says NASA. “The coastline is marked by low mountains that are dissected by canyons carved by rivers that flow down the western side of the Andes.”

The Atacama Desert receives less than 0.2 inches of rain per year on average. According to NASA, this dry environment provides an ideal setting to conduct Mars analog studies.

“Active and inactive volcanoes comprise the Central Andean Volcanic Arc within the Atacama Desert and Andes Mountains. One of the inactive volcanoes visible in this photo is Bolivia’s Nevado Sajama, which has a maximum elevation of 6,542 meters (21,463 feet). Nevado Sajama and other volcanoes in the region often have glaciers and snow cover due to their high elevation.”

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Editor

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