An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a long lens on a brightly colored group of fields in the Kursk region of Russia, not far north of the Ukrainian border. Kursk lies at the heart of Russia's "Black Belt" agricultural region, so-named for its rich black soils.
The bright fields result from the flowers of a ripening crop of rapeseed (also known as oilseed rape), a crop cultivated for its oil-rich seeds. (Brilliant rapeseed flowers have captured astronaut attention before, as in this shot of the Paris region.)
The jagged boundaries of the fields are forested stream courses that remain unplowed in order to prevent soil erosion. Two small towns stand nearby: Kotelnikovo, to the west of the fields (north is to the right), and Malye Kryuki, to the east, near a dark-toned reservoir. For a sense of scale, the yellow fields extend for nearly 8 kilometers (5 miles) from left to right in the image.
Photographs of Earth taken from the ISS with commercial, off-the-shelf digital cameras do not currently include geolocation information that can be used to precisely determine the geographic locations of features in an image. This photograph was one of the more difficult to locate by a ground-based analyst because it was taken with a long lens (which magnifies the view, but therefore shows a small area on the ground), and because the nadir point of the spacecraft was more than 300 kilometers (190 miles) to the southeast.
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