Return to Earth From Space Home
Earth from Space logo Image Information Earth from Space logo

Display a Screen Layout for Printing

IMAGE: gray corner       IMAGE: gray corner
  Image: Geographic Location Direction Photo #: ISS013-E-17394 Date: May 2006
Geographic Region: USA-ARIZONA

Ordering information for space photography
IMAGE: gray corner     IMAGE: gray corner

Image: gray corner     Image: gray corner
  View Low-Resolution Image  
  Central Phoenix Metro Area, Arizona

The Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area is the largest in the southwestern United States. The city is made up of 21 contiguous (connected through an unbroken sequence) incorporated municipalities. When discrete political entities form a larger, integrated urban landscape, geographers call the arrangement a conurbation. This astronaut photograph (upper image) of the central metro region includes the boundary area between three of the municipalities included in the conurbation: the cities of Phoenix (left), Tempe (center and lower right), and Scottsdale (upper right). This high-resolution astronaut image has a spatial resolution (level of detail) of about 9 meters per image pixel. A regional view of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area is also available from the Earth Observatory.

The urban area is still expanding along its fringes, but significant redevelopment is also ongoing in "landlocked" municipalities in the center of the metro area, where expansion is not possible (such as Tempe). Residential areas are grey and gridded into blocks, commercial or industrial sectors often have highly reflective white rooftops, desert soils and rock exposures are brown, vegetation is dark green, and water is black. Comparison of the astronaut image with Landsat Thematic Mapper data (lower image) acquired in 1990 reveals changes in the region over 16 years.

Perhaps the most striking change visible in this image pair is the appearance of Tempe Town Lake, filled in 1999 (upper image, right). The lake was created in the usually dry Salt River channel (dry because the river has been impounded upstream behind Roosevelt Dam since 1911). The lake is part of a plan to develop the Tempe portion of the channel and adjacent floodplain. Contained by inflatable dams to accommodate releases from Roosevelt Dam, the lake holds a nominal water volume of approximately 1 billion gallons, with an estimated 620 million gallons lost to evaporation each year. Other visible changes between 1990 and 2006 include development of land surrounding Sky Harbor Airport, expansion of the airport itself (a third runway, begun in 1997, is visible in the astronaut photograph), and completion of major highways to the southwest of Papago Park and to the east of Tempe Town Lake (upper image, right boundary). Study of the effects of urban modifications in the Phoenix metro area and the surrounding Sonoran Desert ecosystem is the focus of the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research site based at Arizona State University.

While suburbs and skyscrapers are the latest expression of civilization in this portion of the Sonoran Desert, it is not the first large-scale modification of the area to serve human needs. The Hohokam society cultivated the region and created an extensive network of irrigation canals between AD 300 and 1450. The canals remained long after the Hohokam themselves quit the region, and settlers used them in the 19th century to irrigate their fields with water from the Salt River.

Image: gray corner     Image: gray corner

Images: All Available Images Low-Resolution 399k
Mission: ISS013  
Roll - Frame: E - 17394
Geographical Name: USA-ARIZONA  
Center Lat x Lon: 33.5N x 111.9W
Film Exposure:   N=Normal exposure, U=Under exposed, O=Over exposed, F=out of Focus
Percentage of Cloud Cover-CLDP: 10
Camera: E4
Camera Tilt: 13   LO=Low Oblique, HO=High Oblique, NV=Near Vertical
Camera Focal Length: 400  
Nadir to Photo Center Direction: W   The direction from the nadir to the center point, N=North, S=South, E=East, W=West
Stereo?:   Y=Yes there is an adjacent picture of the same area, N=No there isn't
Orbit Number: 2727  
Date: 20060510   YYYYMMDD
Time: 193513   GMT HHMMSS
Nadir Lat: 33.4N  
Latitude of suborbital point of spacecraft
Nadir Lon: 111.2W  
Longitude of suborbital point of spacecraft
Sun Azimuth: 192   Clockwise angle in degrees from north to the sun measured at the nadir point
Space Craft Altitude: 186   nautical miles
Sun Elevation: 74   Angle in degrees between the horizon and the sun, measured at the nadir point
Land Views: DESERT  
Atmosphere Views:  
City Views: PHOENIX  
Photo is not associated with any sequences

NASA Human
Space Flight
Home Page
Home Page
Image eXchange
JSC Digital
Image Collection
Earth Science &
Remote Sensing

This service is provided by the International Space Station program and the JSC Earth Science & Remote Sensing Unit, ARES Division, Exploration Integration Science Directorate.
NASA meatball logo
ESRS logo