In the northern Mexican state of Cohuilla lies the Cuatro Cienegas Basin. Dotting the landscape are small pools, formed by natural springs, in which are found live stromatolites. These stony layered structures are formed by colonies of cyanobacteria that trap sedimentary grains. Their major presence in the fossil record of several billion years ago is evidence of some of the earliest life on Earth. The biological reserve of Cuatro Ciénegas could have strong links to discovering life on Mars, since the adaptability of bioforms in the region is unique in the world.
With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of about 50 to 300 feet, ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on Terra. The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER provides scientists in numerous disciplines with critical information for surface mapping and monitoring of dynamic conditions and temporal change. Example applications are monitoring glacial advances and retreats; monitoring potentially active volcanoes; identifying crop stress; determining cloud morphology and physical properties; wetlands evaluation; thermal pollution monitoring; coral reef degradation; surface temperature mapping of soils and geology; and measuring surface heat balance.
Image Credit: NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team