COOL IMAGES: Highs and Lows

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Science  03 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5458, pp. 1551
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5458.1551a

Cornered by the Garlock fault to the north and the San Andreas fault to the south, the Mojave Desert makes a point in this relief map of Southern California. Snapped from the Space Shuttle, the 250-kilometer-long swath is among dozens of images of Earth's craggy features linked to a world map at the Web site for the just-completed Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. From 11 to 22 February, shuttle astronauts bounced microwaves off the planet and tracked the reflections with twin antennae—one in the shuttle's cargo bay and one on the end of a 60-meter-long mast. NASA scientists and their colleagues at the German Aerospace Center will use the stereo data to determine the altitude to within 10 meters of 80% of Earth's landmass, generating the most complete global topographical map ever—especially for remote regions such as Asia's Kamchatka Peninsula. It should give a leg up to everyone from geologists studying earthquakes to hikers wandering through the wilderness.

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