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aboard the International Space Station looked obliquely down at
the steep eastern flank of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Even from space the topography is impressive. At 4,418 meters (14,494
feet), Mount Whitney is the highest mountain in the contiguous 48
states. The range drops from its peak nearly 3,353 meters (11,000
feet) to the floor of Owens Valley. The elevation of Lone Pine is
1146 meters (3,760 feet). The Sierra Nevada landscape is well known
for the deep, glacially scoured valleys like Kern Canyon, which
is west of Mount Whitney.
landscape changes east of the Sierra, marked by alternating steep
desert mountain ranges and valleys. Many of the valleys contain
dry lakebeds, remnants of deep lakes that filled the valleys 11,000
years ago, at the end of the last ice age. Owens Lake was a salty
lake until 1913, when the Owens River was diverted into the Los
Angeles Aqueduct, quickly draining the lake. Today, Owens Lake is
a dried salt flat that contains some pooled water following rains.
Solar evaporation ponds lie along the northern edge. The bright
red color in the wet parts of the lakebed is from the red color
of salt-loving microbes known as halobacteria.
was provided by the Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory
at Johnson Space Center. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA-JSC Gateway
to Astronaut Photography of Earth.