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This is a picture of coral reefs in the Red Sea as seen from the International Space Station on May 20, 2003.
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Courtesy of NASA

Peeking at Coral Reefs from Space
News story originally written on June 4, 2003

Look at this picture! The light blue parts are coral reefs just under the water’s surface. How many reefs do you see?

The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) took this picture while looking down at the Earth below them on May 20, 2003. It shows coral reefs in the Red Sea.

Some scientists dive into the water and study reefs up-close. Other scientists can study reefs from very far away. By looking at reefs from the ISS or Earth-observing satellites, scientists can figure out if reefs around the world are healthy. They can see how much of a reef has living coral on it and how much coral has become sick and died.

The world’s coral reefs are in trouble. Each year there are less healthy reefs. Pollution, warming oceans, and new coral diseases threaten them. Thanks to satellites and the ISS we are able to keep track of reef health by looking from above.

Last modified June 3, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF