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The Sciences

Phytoplankton bloom

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJanuary 2, 2011 6:13 PM

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So yesterday I spent several hours rearranging my office and had a pile of other stuff to do, keeping me pretty busy throughout the day. So instead of some deeply insightful science post or lengthy discussion of skepticism, I'll simply show you this beautiful image of a phytoplankton bloom off the coast of Patagonia:

aqua_patagonia_bloom.jpg

[Click to unmicroorganismenate] This was taken by NASA's Aqua satellite, designed to study the Earth's oceans. This isn't really a true-color picture, since seven different colors were used to make it (though there is one available closer to natural colors). But it's still pretty. And useful scientifically; blooms like this happen when there's a confluence of various factors, like currents, nutrients, sunlight, and of course the plankton themselves, so scientists can use these blooms to study conditions in the water. And since about half the planet's supply of oxygen is created by photosynthesis by these little guys, blooms are useful in a more basic way, too!

Image credit: Norman Kuring, NASA's Ocean Color website

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