Observing Earth from outer space is a breathtaking experience that presents an unparalleled viewpoint of our planet's varied landscapes. Astronauts and satellites that orbit the Earth capture remarkable visuals that expose the intricacy and magnificence of the world below. These images, ranging from the vast, swirling patterns of weather systems to the intricate designs of human settlements, provide valuable insights into both natural phenomena and the impact of human activity on the planet.

From space, we see beautiful rainforests, deserts, mountains, rivers, and lakes. Even cities are visible with their illuminated skylines at night and patterned infrastructure during the day.

An article by NASA's Earth Observatory highlights one particularly striking example of how human activity has shaped the landscape. The article showcases a checkerboard pattern along the Priest River in Northern Idaho. Captured just before sunset on January 4, 2017, by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, this photograph reveals a distinctive landscape shaped by forest management practices.

During the 1800s, the checkerboard pattern emerged when the U.S. government granted alternate parcels of land to railroads, including the Northern Pacific. Later on, many of these parcels were sold and harvested for timber. Nowadays, this land is managed for wildlife and timber harvesting, aiming to maintain the sustainability of forested tracts while still allowing the harvest of trees. The striking visual effect from above is created by the contrast between the white patches of younger, smaller trees, where winter snow reflects brightly back to space, and the dark green-brown squares of denser, intact forest. The Priest River is seen winding its way through the scene, flanked by forests that act as natural filtration systems, preserving water quality. This image captures not only the beauty of the Earth from space but also highlights the interaction between human activities and the natural environment.

Nasa Earth Observatory
NASA Earth Observatory

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