The Gulf of Oman has a lot of beauty

The Associated Press

On February 8, 2024, NASA’s PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem) satellite roared into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Less than two months later, NASA engineer Joseph Knuble compiled a gallery of 36 images from the satellite’s primary sensor.
Among his favorites is this image of the Gulf of Oman.
Knuble, the lead instrument systems engineer for OCI, composed this scene using red (630 nanometers), green (532 nanometers), and blue (465 nanometers) wavelengths of light.
When conditions are right, phytoplankton populations can grow explosively, forming a bloom large enough to be visible from space.
The image “highlights the beauty and complexity of that area,” said Jeremy Werdell, PACE project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Determining which phytoplankton species is present within a bloom has only been possible with direct water samples.
But with OCI’s ability to detect hundreds of wavelengths of light, scientists could soon be able to distinguish phytoplankton types from space.

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The story for today contains the solution to the April 2024 puzzle.

On February 8, 2024, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched NASA’s PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem) satellite into orbit. Joseph Knuble, an engineer at NASA, assembled a gallery of 36 photos from the satellite’s main sensor in less than two months. This picture of the Gulf of Oman is one of his favorites.

The data for this image was obtained on March 17, 2024, using PACE’s Ocean Color Instrument (OCI). Red (630 nanometers), green (532 nanometers), and blue (465 nanometers) light wavelengths were used to create this scene by Knuble, the lead instrument systems engineer at OCI. In order to highlight the minute details in the water, the image has been adjusted. It’s not a traditional natural-color image. As opposed to what your eyes would see, it is more colorful and detailed, yet the features are all very authentic.

One of the most remarkable aspects depicted in this image is a phytoplankton bloom. Under the correct circumstances, phytoplankton populations can grow quickly and create a bloom big enough to be seen from space. The bloom has formed narrow, whirling bands today due to tumultuous eddies. According to Jeremy Werdell, a PACE project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the photo “highlights the beauty and complexity of that area.”.

One type of marine dinoflagellate that has been found here in the past is probably Noctiluca scintillans, which accounts for the swirls of green. Noctiluca blooms can be incredibly beautiful, but their presence can have negative effects on marine life. As the dead phytoplankton is broken down by bacteria, oxygen is consumed, which can result in hypoxia and dead zones.

In the past few decades, the waters surrounding the larger Arabian Sea have undergone a shift from being primarily dominated by Noctiluca to having a high concentration of diatoms, a type of phytoplankton that is crucial to the marine food chain. Noctiluca can survive in waters that are less dissolved in nutrients and more stratified than diatoms.

It has only been feasible to identify the phytoplankton species contained in a bloom by using direct water samples. Scientists may soon be able to differentiate between different phytoplankton species from space, though, thanks to OCI’s capacity to detect hundreds of light wavelengths.

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