NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS

July 23, 2012 -- In 1972, NASA launched the first Landsat satellite to monitor and record the global changes taking place on the planet. Today the Landsat team is celebrating 40 years of continuous observational power. As part of the celebrations, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey asked the public to vote on 120 images that the USGS selected and digitally colored. Here are the top five winners from their "Earth as Art" contest.

In 1st Place: Van Gogh from Space

The top photo above shows Sweden's Gotland Island in the Baltic Sea acquired by Landsat 7 on July 13, 2005.

"In the style of Van Gogh's painting "Starry Night," massive congregations of greenish phytoplankton swirl in the dark water around Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea. Population explosions, or blooms, of phytoplankton, like the one shown here, occur when deep currents bring nutrients up to sunlit surface waters, fueling the growth and reproduction of these tiny plants," reported NASA.

PHOTOS: Earth Perspectives Through the Ages

On Feb. 11, 2013, NASA will launch its eighth satellite in the fleet to join Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 currently still in orbit. Landsat 8 is a joint endeavor with the USGS and the satellite will carry into space equipment capable of monitoring Earth in the visible, near-infrared, short wave infrared and thermal infrared wavelengths, with a moderate-resolution of 15 to 100 meters.

-- by Christina Reed

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS

In 2nd Place: Biology or Geology?

The top photo above shows the Yukon Delta acquired by Landsat 7 on Sept. 22, 2002.

"Countless lakes, sloughs, and ponds are scattered throughout this scene of the Yukon Delta in southwest Alaska. One of the largest river deltas in the world, and protected as part of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, the river's sinuous waterways seem like blood vessels branching out to enclose an organ," reported NASA.

PHOTOS: Earth's Blue Marble Beauty

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS

In 3rd Place: River Puzzle

The top photo above shows the meandering Mississippi acquired by Landsat 7 on May 28, 2003.

"Small, blocky shapes of towns, fields, and pastures surround the graceful swirls and whorls of the Mississippi River, the largest river system in North America. Countless oxbow lakes and cutoffs accompany the meandering river south of Memphis, Tennessee, on the border between Arkansas and Mississippi," reported NASA.

PHOTOS: Flood Waters Along the Mississippi River

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS

In 4th Place: Sandy Seas

The top photo above shows Algeria's Erg Iguidi sand dunes acquired by Landsat 5 on April 8, 1985.

"What look like pale yellow paint streaks slashing through a mosaic of mottled colors are ridges of wind-blown sand that make up Erg Iguidi, an area of ever-shifting sand dunes extending from Algeria into Mauritania in northwestern Africa. Erg Iguidi is one of several Saharan ergs, or sand seas, where individual dunes often surpass 500 meters (nearly a third of a mile) in both width and height," reported NASA.

PHOTOS: The Hunt for Lost Cities

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS

In 5th Place: A Frightful Face?

The top photo above shows Lake Eyre acquired by Landsat 5 on Aug. 5, 2006.

"The scary face in this image is actually inundated patches of shallow Lake Eyre (pronounced "air") in the desert country of northern South Australia. An ephemeral feature of this flat, parched landscape, Lake Eyre is Australia's largest lake when it's full. However in the last 150 years, it has filled completely only three times," reported NASA.