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Earth from Space

Egypt’s Great Pyramids of Giza

IMAGE: Egypt's Great Pyramids of Giza

High-resolution image (103 Kb)

All astronauts are interested in observing unique human footprints from space, and especially those reflecting thousands of years of human activities. The region of the Great Pyramids of Giza the last remaining wonder of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is a favorite target. Although the Egyptian pyramids have been imaged many times before by astronauts, each new image provides a unique look at the archeological monument, depending on the viewing angle from the ISS and the illumination from the Sun. Giza is a royal burial place, commissioned and built by pharaohs during the fourth dynasty around 2550 BC. Started by Khufu, continued by his son Khafre, and later by his son, Menkaure, the complex also includes many tombs and temples for queens, other members of royal families and royal attendants.

The low Sun angle in this image allows for many of the smaller surrounding monuments to be observed. Further, the sides of the pyramid align with the cardinal directions. In this view, the shadows form afternoon Sun provide directional arrows that point west. For scale, the current length of the large pyramid at the base is 227 meters (745 feet), and the height is 137 meters (449 feet).

Today, Giza is a rapidly growing region of Cairo. Population growth in Egypt continues to soar, leading to new construction. New roads for large new developments are obvious in the desert hills northwest and southwest of the pyramids. Documenting patterns of urban growth around the world is a prime science objective for Earth photography by ISS astronauts.

Astronaut photograph ISS007-E-12915.was taken August 18, 2003, with a Kodak DCS760 digital camera equipped with an 800 mm lens and provided by the Earth Observations Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

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Curator: Kim Dismukes
Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty

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Updated: 09/08/2003