NASA wants your help. Adam Voiland, a writer for the NASA Earth Observatory, is compiling a gallery he calls "Alphabet in the Sky"—letters and other typographical marks seen from space.
Voiland's inspiration was this smoke plume in Canada, spewed from wildfires burning in the Caribou Mountains of northern Alberta. To him, it became an enormous letter ‘V.’ (To me, it’s more of a number 2, if you rotate the image clockwise. Wired did the same but called it a ‘Z.’ What's your vote?)
“How many other letters have satellites captured momentarily gracing Earth’s atmosphere and oceans?” Voiland asks in his blog, Earth Matters. “This is the first that I’ve noticed, but I have no doubt there are many more to find given the ceaseless mixing and swirling of clouds, smoke, dust, ice and even phytoplankton that constantly occurs across our planet.”
If you’ve seen a letter (or other typographical mark) in a satellite image, leave Voiland a comment in the thread below his blog. The guidelines are pretty simple:
A great place to start looking is the Discovery News archive. Jason Major chose this image specifically because of its resemblance to a figure-8:
And how about the capsized Costa Concordia? From the side (unfortunately), this Italian cruise ship looks a lot like a capital ‘I’ in Trebuchet MS (a san serif font I particularly adore). Or maybe it's a 'J'?
I’m betting we can get a lot of mileage out of hurricanes, sinewy rivers and urban landscapes as well. There are at least two interesting ‘C’s, a ‘Q’ and a big ‘X’ in these shots from Haiti:
Photo: Smoke plume over northern Canada on July 11, 2012 (NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response)