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Help Find an Alphabet in the Sky

One of the first things that caught Adam Voiland’s eye when he started checking for interesting satellite imagery recently was this: an enormous “V” of smoke draped over northern Canada, as seen by the MODIS instrument on the Aqua satellite. The plume was caused by numerous wildfires burning in the Caribou Mountains of northern Alberta.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response. This image was acquired on July 11, 2012, by the Aqua satellite.At first glance, what looks like a decorative swash on the upper left of the V even reminded him of the look of the N that is used on the Earth Observatory to indicate the orientation of an image. It made him think the two might in essence share the same typeface. In fact, the bottom point of the capital V of Adobe Jensen Pro (the typeface of their N) is much wider and curvier than the point in the smoke above.

Still, it’s a memorable image. And it made him wonder: how many other letters have satellites captured momentarily gracing Earth’s atmosphere and oceans? This is the first that he’s noticed, but he has no doubt there are many more to find given the ceaseless mixing and swirling of clouds, smoke, dust, ice, and even phytoplankton that constantly occurs across our planet.

Adam thinks it would be fun to compile a gallery of them, so if you’ve seen a letter (or other typographical mark) in a satellite image, please let him know. Just leave a comment on this thread:

Send a link to what you’ve found, and explain what letter or other typographical mark you think you see.

If you’re feeling especially ambitious, mention what typeface it reminds you of as well. The site will be updated as new letters come in, and perhaps there will eventually be a whole alphabet (plus a good collection of numbers and symbols). Sending non-English characters is ok: just note what the character is and what it’s called.

Wondering where you can look for imagery besides EO?
Here are a few places to try:

1) NASA Visible Earth
2) The Earth Observatory Archives
3) The Gateway to Astronaut Photography
4) Jet Propulsion Laboratory Photojournal
5) Scientific Visualization Studio Archives

Image Credit - NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response. This image was acquired on July 11, 2012, by the Aqua satellite.