1. Gulf Stream, Spiral Eddies
This photograph, taken off the northeastern seaboard of the United States in October 1984 with a 50-mm lens on a NASA-modified Hasselblad camera, shows spiral eddies in the Gulf Stream highlighted in the Sun glitter. “Sun glitter” is the term applied to the mirror reflection pattern of the Sun off the water surface. Many new oceanographic discoveries have been made from the shuttle when the orbiter is in a position for trained astronaut observers to study phenomena highlighted by sunlight reflecting off ocean surface features.
The white patches intruding across the top left and, to a lesser degree because they are in shadow, the top right of the frame are clouds. The spiral eddies in this photograph are 12 to 18 kilometers in diameter. When spiral eddies were first observed in photographs of the Gulf of Oman from the first shuttle mission in April 1981, it was thought that the eddies were perhaps unique to that region. This photograph is a good introduction to how surface features can be viewed from the shuttle, but it also proves that spiral eddies are not isolated to one global location. Also, it indicates the diligence with which crews have followed up on the discoveries of earlier missions and the rapidity with which advances are being made in exploring ocean dynamics through the shuttle program.
STS-41G, October 1984. Picture #17-41-046