The wake of a ship slices into the eye of an algal maelstrom in this image, acquired by ESA's Sentinel-2A satellite on Aug. 7, 2015.
Ribbons of bright green outline concentrations of cyanobacteria as they drift in the swirling currents of the Baltic Sea, off the coasts of Latvia and Estonia.
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You can download a high-resolution version of the full image here.
The first of a pair of satellites that will make up the Sentinel-2 mission, Sentinel-2A orbits Earth in a sun-synchronous polar orbit at an average altitude of about 500 miles (800 km). It uses its Multi-Spectral Instrument (MSI) to image our planet in 13 different wavelengths at a resolution of 10 meters to track variations in vegetation over land surfaces.
Although designated a "land mission," Sentinel-2A is so sensitive to emissions from chlorophyll-producing plants that large blooms of algae are easily detected.
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Images like these can help researchers track both algal blooms and the ocean currents and wave patterns they get caught within.
"This provides unique and complementary information to monitor the development of potentially harmful blooms," said ESA ocean scientist Craig Donlon.
Large algae and cyanobacteria blooms can be toxic to aquatic ecosystems, depleting the water of oxygen and potentially reducing the amount of sunlight that can penetrate deeper into the water column. Because of their damaging effects blooms are monitored by researchers, many of whom have already had expectations exceeded by the Sentinel-2 mission.
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Sentinel-2A launched aboard a Vega rocket from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on June 23, 2015. It was the second spacecraft launched as part of the Copernicus program, which will ultimately place thirteen separate satellites into orbit to monitor Earth's surface, atmosphere, and ocean. Learn more about the Sentinel missions and the Copernicus program here.