First Place: "Van Gogh From Space"
A satellite image of green phytoplankton swirling around the Swedish island of Gotland (map) echoes Van Gogh's "Starry Night." The Baltic Sea view was voted the best picture from NASA's Landsat program, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this week.
Acquired by the Landsat 7 satellite on July 13, 2005, the image was among five winners of a joint U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)/NASA competition called "Earth as Art."
The agencies have previously chosen particularly artistic Landsat pictures—normally used for scientific research—for the "Earth as Art" collections. But in 2012 the public made the decision, with more than 14,000 Web users voting for their favorites.
Pictures intended for the "Earth as Art" series are colored and tweaked for aesthetics by volunteers at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where Landsat data are processed.
"All of us who work with these things regularly are struck every now and then by the aesthetic value of some of the images," said the USGS's Ron Beck.