Hundreds of semi-trailer trucks line up on the tarmac of Manston Airport in Kent, southeastern England. The closed airport has been used as a “lorry park” since Sunday, when France announced a travel ban from the United Kingdom in response to the identification of a new COVID-19 strain in England. The border was reopened yesterday morning to essential travelers who test negative for COVID-19, slowly alleviating a backup of several thousand cargo trucks. This morning, after four and a half years of Brexit negotiations, the European Union and the UK finalized terms on a free trade deal, narrowly avoiding a no-deal scenario that would have begun January 1st.
While we normally focus on satellite imagery of Earth, today we turn our cameras in the other direction to share this once-in-our-lifetime view. A Planet SkySat captured this shot of the Jupiter and Saturn conjunction on December 21st, when the two planets made their closest night sky pass in nearly 800 years. Although they are really 456 million miles (734 million km) apart, during this vibrant conjunction — called the “Christmas Star” — they appeared so close that both could be covered by a pinkie finger at arm’s length.
This Overview shows Deir ez-Zor, the largest city in eastern Syria, before (2012) and during (2018) the Syrian Civil War. Extended periods of drought in the late 2000s and early 2010s forced Syrian farmers and others dependent on the agriculture industry into cities like Deir ez-Zor, exacerbating existing political unrest. This tension is believed to be a major factor in setting off the Syrian Civil War, the ultimate cause of the world’s largest refugee crisis, with over 5 million refugees fleeing to neighboring countries, Africa, and Europe to escape the conflict.
Evaporation ponds are seen at the Intrepid Potash Mines near Carlsbad, New Mexico, USA. These mines produce muriate of potash and sulfate of potash magnesium, two mineral salts used in fertilizer. Salt is dried in these massive solar ponds after being pumped to the surface from underground brines. Water in the ponds is dyed with vibrant colors to reduce the time it takes for potash to crystallize — darker water absorbs more sunlight, causing it to evaporate more quickly.
Aquaculture operations are seen along much of the shoreline of the Saguling Dam Reservoir in West Java, Indonesia. Located at the headwater of the Citarum River, the reservoir’s primary purpose is hydroelectric power generation, but it also provides water for net-cage fish farming and rice paddy irrigation. The Citarum River is listed as one of the most polluted rivers in the world, primarily due to contamination from the Indonesian textile industry.
Willemstad is a city of 3,125 in the Noord-Brabant province of the Netherlands. Its historic center lies within a 17th century star fort on the south bank of the Hollands Diep river. Willemstad is the namesake for the capital city of Curaçao, an island country in the Dutch Caribbean.
Bahía Blanca is a city in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina, home to more than 300,000 people. Its name, which translates to “White Bay,” derives from the color of the salt that builds up along its Atlantic coastline. Bahía Blanca has the typical features of a city founded by the Spanish and their descendants — a strict grid pattern with main buildings surrounding rectangular courtyards.
Blades for wind turbines are seen here, grouped together at a manufacturing facility in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. Individual blades are transported from this facility to wind farms on top of trucks and then assembled on-site. For a sense of scale, the longest blades here are 350 feet (107 meters) long, or 1.3 times the length of a New York City block.
Koolan Island is located off the Kimberley Coast of Western Australia, about 80 miles (130 km) north of Derby. The 6,375-acre (2,580-hectare) island is rich in high-grade iron ore and has been open-pit mined since 1963. In 1994 — after 68 million tonnes of ore had been extracted — the mine was temporarily closed and intentionally flooded with seawater, allowing a marine ecosystem to develop within the bounds of the pit. Mining recommenced in 2007 and continues today.
An extensive patchwork of farmland is seen here in Pondera County, Montana, USA. Located on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains less than 50 miles (80 km) south of Canada, the county averages fewer than 4 people per square mile. In the bottom left corner of this Overview is the town of Valier — population 509 — where agriculture and cattle ranching are the main industries.
Cargo ships pass through the Suez Canal in Egypt. Officially opened in 1869 as a way to connect the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, the 120-mile long (193 km) channel has more than 18,000 ships pass through its waterways each year. In 2014, the Egyptian government began a construction project to expand and widen the Ballah Bypass, in order to shorten the transit time through the canal. This expansion nearly doubled the capacity of the canal, from 49 to 97 ships per day.
Clouds float over the Amazon Rainforest 120 miles (193 km) outside of Manaus, Brazil. This particular location lies within the Rio Negro State Park North Section, a more than 360,000-acre (146,000-hectare) protected area of which 87% is classified as dense rainforest. About 30 families live in the park; most are descendants of indigenous groups who make a living growing crops like bananas and cassava.
Nice is the fifth most populated city in France, with roughly one million inhabitants in its metropolitan area. Located in southeastern France on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is part of the tourist-popular French Riviera. It has one of the highest hotel capacities in France and during a regular year is visited by more than four million tourists.
The Olympic Dam Mine in South Australia contains the largest known deposit of uranium in the world and is the country’s largest producer of uranium oxide, or “yellowcake.” Mining uranium is the first step in the process of nuclear power generation. Before it can be fabricated into a fuel, the uranium must be enriched through the process of isotope separation.
Rainforest surrounds a neighborhood of Bertioga, Brazil, roughly 50 miles (80 km) southeast of São Paulo. Bertioga has a population of about 56,000, but its location between resort towns on the Atlantic Ocean causes its population to fluctuate greatly from season to season. Within the municipality is 23,010 acres (9,312 hectares) of the Restinga de Bertioga State Park, a protected area for mangroves, dense rainforest, and restinga — a distinct type of tropical broadleaf forest endemic to eastern Brazil.
This Overview shows a small section of the “Panlong Ancient Road” in southwestern Xinjiang, China. Located near the Chinese border with Tajikistan, this route snakes for 47 miles (75 km) through the Pamir Mountains, rising 13,450 feet (4,100 meters) above sea level. Some reports claim it has more than 600 hairpin turns.
Greater Vancouver is the third-most populous metropolitan area in Canada, with roughly 2.5 million residents. Located on the Pacific Coast, it comprises more than 20 municipalities and also has the highest population density in the nation with more than 5,400 people per square kilometer. As seen in this Overview, the city is bisected by the Fraser River, which travels 854 miles (1,375 km) through British Columbia before emptying into the Pacific Ocean -- depositing 20 million tons of sediment per year.
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is a 380,000-acre (155,000 hectare) protected area in northeastern Brazil. The park’s interior contains miles of rolling sand dunes, the valleys of which fill with freshwater lagoons during the rainy season and are prevented from draining by impermeable rock beneath. Lençóis Maranhenses has 43 miles (70 km) of Atlantic coastline and is home to a range of species, including four that are endangered — the scarlet ibis, the neotropical otter, the oncilla and the West Indian manatee.
The Oosterscheldekering (Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier) is the largest in a series of 13 dams designed to protect the Netherlands from North Sea flooding. It spans about 5.6 miles (9 km) between the islands of Schouwen-Duiveland and Noord-Beveland, containing large sluicegate-type doors that can be closed under adverse weather conditions. Designed to last more than 200 years, the Oosterscheldekering is sometimes referred to as the eighth Wonder of the World.
Guayaquil is the most populous city in Ecuador, with upwards of 2.6 million residents. Situated on the Guayas River about 40 miles (60 km) north of the Pacific Ocean, it is also the nation’s most important commercial port. Guayaquil is known as the “Gateway to the Galapagos” since most flights to the islands originate or have a stopover in the city.