Minimize Earth from Space: Mediterranean Pearls

This Envisat image shows the island of Elba off Italy's north western coast. To the east is the Italian mainland and region of Tuscany, while the small island of Pianosa is visible in the lower-left corner.

According to legend, the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago appeared when Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, emerged from the sea. Seven pearls slipped from her neck, forming the seven islands of the archipelago.

Elba is the largest of this chain. Covering an area of over 220 sq km, the terrain ranges from high mountains in the west to lower hills in the east, with a small flat area in between.

Mining for iron on Elba dates back to the ancient Ligurians and the Etruscan times. After 480 BC the Romans invaded the island, taking over the iron industry and discovering the curative mud baths. Today, visitors continue to use the baths for therapeutic purposes.

The island of Pianosa was the site of a maximum security prison until 1998. Today, prisoners who are still serving time work at the island's hotel in a programme designed to help re-integrate them into society. The rest of the 10 sq km island is now a wildlife sanctuary.

This image is a compilation of three Envisat radar images acquired on 29 November 2008, 7 February 2009 and 21 August 2010. Each image is given a colour - red, green and blue - and combined to produce this representation.

Colours reveal changes between the satellite's passes. In fact, the populated areas on Italy's mainland appear very colourful. This shows that the land, buildings and roads changed over the three-year period. Changes in the sea surface are also evident.

View the full resolution image.

Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)

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