NASA releases stunning phytoplankton photo

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NASA has released a rare and stunning image of phytoplankton in bloom.

The detailed image of an autumnal phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic Ocean was captured by researchers on Sept. 23.

It is known that phytoplankton, which are microscopic plant-like organisms, play a role in carbon cycling, but it has been theorized that they also influence clouds and climate.

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North Atlantic phytoplankton typically bloom in the spring and fall, but become harder to spot in the fall due to intensity in weather conditions.

Researchers were able to capture the image using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The image was then enhanced using data from red, green and blue bands from VIIRS alongside chlorophyll data.

In a press release on NASA’s website, Michael Behrenfeld, a phytoplankton ecologist at Oregon State University, said the image showed the link between ocean physics and biology.

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“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,” he said.