Summer is rapidly approaching, and with that comes the annual blooming of plants big and small. In the ocean, this means phytoplankton blooms. These microscopic floating plants are the basis of the marine food-chain, feeding everything from krill to whales.
This photo was taken from space, but it's not a galaxy or a nebula. It's a massive phytoplankton bloom off the coast of South Africa, just when the Atlantic and the Indian oceans meet.
Plankton are tiny all by their lonesome, but every summer these tiny marine organisms take over the Barents Sea north of Norway. On August 14, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this giant bloom stretching several hundred kilometers over the Scandinavian Peninsula.
This amazing image reveals a colorful mix of microscopic life and floating nutrients that have been churned together by the movements of powerful ocean currents. This massive bloom of phytoplankton is hundreds of miles long and visible from space.
"Van Gogh from space." That's how Rebecca Roth at NASA Goddard describes this stunning image, which looks like Starry Night. But these are not stars. It's right here, on planet Earth. So beautiful that it defies belief.
You are watching the lungs of Earth, the producers of much of the oxygen in the planet, accounting for half of all the photosynthetic activity. They are not trees. It's phytoplankton. It's blooming now, in the Barents Sea. Zoom out:
The oceans aren't really blue - thanks to chlorophyll-producing plankton, the ocean has a greenish tint. Now scientists have evidence that making the oceans truly blue could reduce hurricanes and typhoons by up to 70 percent.