Part of the astronaut experience is observing many different landscapes and geological patterns, especially in deserts where vegetation is rare. A crew member aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of a circular hill in the Kavir Desert in central Iran on 13 December 2015.
Even from 400 kilometers (250 miles) up in space, this long-lens image captures fine details of the small (3.25 kilometre) flat hilltop. Numerous, multi-coloured lines on the sides of the hill show that it consists of many thin layers of sedimentary rock.
The neighbouring dry lake has a white salt-covered surface. By contrast, the darkest areas are shrubby desert vegetation on the lowest slopes of the hill-the only zone where enough water concentrates to allow vegetation to grow.
The astronaut might even be able to tell the difference between the long curved lines on the left of the image. One is an ancient shoreline formed when the lake contained permanent water and had waves strong enough to shape sediments into a smooth beach. The other curved, slightly irregular line is a harder rock layer protruding from the desert floor.
View the full resolution image.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory