Earth as Art: Stunning Landsat Images

Since 1972, the U.S. Geological Service and NASA have worked together on an unprecedented and nearly continuous visual record of Earth’s landscapes, icescapes and coastal ecosystems. Satellites capture an incredible variety of views of Earth. See the mesmerizing beauty of river deltas, mountains, and other sandy, salty, and icy landscapes. 

Landsat spacecraft sense light outside the visible range, so these images show more than what eyes can see. In addition to their scientific value, many satellite images are simply lovely to look at. One could even call them works of art. 

Melted Colors


This enhanced image of Western Australia resembles a mixture of crayons that melted in the sun. The yellow sand dunes of the Great Sandy Desert cover the upper right portion of the image. Red splotches indicate burned areas from grass and forest fires, and the colors in the rest of the image depict different types of surface geology.

Rapid Ice Movement

Landsat satellite image showing rapid ice movement on Russian islands.

One glacier on Russian islands in the Arctic Ocean surprised scientists with its rapid change. After decades of normal, slow movement, a glacier draining Vavilov Ice Cap sprang forward, accelerating rapidly after 2013. This fast movement is extremely rare for cold-based glaciers. In 5 years, the ice tongue doubled in size. In this inverted rendition, land is blue and fractured sea ice appears tan across the top of the image.

Salty Desolation


A vast, open expanse in Namibia is one of the largest salt pans in the world. The pan is within Etosha National Park, protected since 1907. The horizontal line across the image is the national park fence. The wild patterns in this infrared interpretation are from numerous episodes of water evaporation following seasonal rains. The salt from the water is rearranged into new patterns every time the shallow water dries out. The surrounding blue shades are dry bushland savanna.


Vegetation shown as bright blue with the surrounding water as light green.

Palmyra Atoll is an ancient volcanic remnant located about 1,000 miles from Hawaii. The Nature Conservancy, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages the atoll as a science and research station. Multispectral sensors on drones efficiently capture high-resolution images of land and coral reefs. Part of the atoll, an islet named Pelican Island, shows green vegetation as blue.

Lake Disappointment


Surrounded by sand dunes, Lake Disappointment is an ephemeral salt lake in one of the most remote areas of Western Australia. An early explorer supposedly named the lake in 1897 after following several creeks that he thought would lead to a large lake; they did, but the lake's extremely salty water was not drinkable.

Desert Ribbons

Pastel streaks of pink, green, brown, and purple across a desert.

Rock folding on a tectonic scale occurred in northwestern Africa. These motley ribbons dancing across the desert in Morocco are folds caused by the prolonged collision of tectonic plates. The long continuous line is Jbel Ouarkziz, a ridge that rises 200–300 meters above the valley floors.

Copper and Blue


The copper color in this infrared combination is the presence of lake ice in the Northwest Territories in northern Canada. The lake on the right side is Whitefish Lake, in a region with numerous glacial landforms. Bright wrinkle-like lines are eskers, ridges made of sand and gravel formed by glacial sediments deposited by meltwater rivers flowing on the ice. The blue color is land dominated by shrub tundra with some spruce stands.

Cubism—Landsat Style

Rich hues of orange and brown over a textured, rugged landscape.

Startling red patches sprout from an agricultural landscape that looks almost like a Cubist painting. The fields in this part of eastern Kazakhstan follow the contours of the land — long and narrow in mountain valleys, and large and rectangular over the plains.

To learn more, visit the Landsat Science website.