GROUND TRUTHING

A MYSTERY SOLVED ON THE GROUND

Things that are mysterious from aerial or space images may be very obvious to an observer standing on the ground. This "close up and personal" observation is called GROUND TRUTHING and is a very important part of the scientific interpretation of remote imaging. Normally it would have been impossible to get ground observation to match the GeoCam pictures but in the case of the Atacam there was a lucky break. Sergio Ballivan from the National Geographic Society just happened to be working in the area of the Antiplano on the very day this series of photos were taken from space.

Sergio immediately recognized the white pattern as being the result of a freak snow storm (extremely rare in this normally dry land) followed by high winds (very common). The wind blew the newly fallen snow into every crevice and piled it up against every elevated feature. This caused a dramatic but very temporary white pattern that just happened to be there when STS-57 flew over that particular day.

ANSWER - SNOW AND WIND

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