Winter on top of the world


Passing over the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in January 2020, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) looked southwest and snapped a picture of glacial lakes near the Himalayan mountain range. Located just northeast of Mount Everest, Puma Yumco and Yamdrok lakes were frozen over at the time.

Glacial runoff fills these lakes, vital to the life of the small villages that line their shores. For residents of one such village, Tuiwa, the winter ice cover on Puma Yumco creates a passable surface to drive sheep to areas where more forage is available.

Puma Yumco and Yamdrok are just two of many glacial lakes on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which spans 2.5 million square kilometers (about 965,000 square miles). With an average elevation of 4,500 meters (14,800 ft) above sea level, the plateau is one of the highest geographical features on Earth and often referred to as the “roof of the world”.

Astronaut Photography ISS061-E-145772 was acquired on January 26, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 210 millimeters. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observation Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 61 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. the International Space Station Program supports the laboratory in the context of ISS National Laboratory to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make these images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Amber Turner, Jacobs, JETS contract at NASA-JSC.


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