This Spectacular Nebula Is Not In Space

Illustration for article titled This Spectacular Nebula Is Not In Space

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.

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Right now it's summer in that part of the world. The phytoplankton—photosynthesizing microscopic organisms that have chlorophyll in their cells—is thriving thanks to the extended light times and the release of nutrients trapped in the melting ice.

Phytoplankton is crucial for planet Earth, as they produce more than half of the oxygen in our atmosphere, fix carbon and serve food for krill and other fish. They are the foundation of the sea and our planet.

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The true-color image was captured by NASA's Terra satellite using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. [NASA Goddard]

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DISCUSSION

Too bad they don't give any indication of the size of this bloom. It could be 5 feet or 500 miles across for all I know.

If I had to guess, I'd wager it's in the miles range somewhere.