ESA probe spots world's largest salt plain

Published: Sept. 20, 2017 at 2:35 PM

Brooks Hays

Sept. 20 (UPI) -- A European Space Agency probe has captured a stunning image of Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat on the planet.

Salar de Uyuni is located at the crest of the Andes in southwest Bolivia. It boasts an altitude of 11,995 feet above sea level and spans 4,086 square miles, about the size Lebanon.

The newly released false-color image was captured by the camera on Proba-V, a small ESA satellite designed to study Earth's vegetation.

Wavy patterns are visible along the western edge of the salt flat, while shades of blue along the eastern edge reveal flooding. The small geometric pattern in the flat's southeast corner represents the facilities of a lithium mine.

Though devoid of vegetation or permanent wildlife, every November, the flat serves as breeding grounds for three pink flamingo species, the Chilean, Andean and James's flamingos.

Proba-V snapped the photo in April. The mini satellite maps land cover and plots vegetation growth across the entirety of the planet every two days.

Probe-V's data is processed by ESA scientists in Belgium and distributed to groups of researchers around the world for various types of analysis.

More of the probe's stunning images can be found on ESA's website.

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