Like something straight out of "Star Wars," NASA has released a dazzling photo of a phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Phytoplankton, microscopic organisms that live in the warm, sunlit upper layers of the world's oceans, are generally considered the foundation of the oceanic food chain. Each spring and fall the oceans experience what's called a "bloom," the result of a rapid increase in the population of phytoplankton. Thanks to the presence of chlorophyll within their cells, as well as other pigments, these blooms of phytoplankton can change the color of the ocean's surface.
While spring blooms are generally easy to capture from space, fall blooms are elusive due to an increase in weather and clouds during the season. Thanks to a clearing on September 23rd, however, NASA's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite was able to take this beautiful shot.
“The image does a beautiful job of showing the close link between ocean physics and biology,” Michael Behrenfeld, a phytoplankton ecologist at Oregon State University, said in a statement. “The features that jump out so clearly represent the influence of ocean eddies and physical stirring on the concentration of phytoplankton pigments and, possibly,colored dissolved organic matter.”