Acquired by the Landsat 7 satellite on July 13, 2005, the image was among five winners of a joint U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)/NASA competition called "Earth as Art."
The agencies have previously chosen particularly artistic Landsat pictures—normally used for scientific research—for the "Earth as Art" collections. But in 2012 the public made the decision, with more than 14,000 Web users voting for their favorites.
The Yukon River Delta, one of the world's largest, looks like a sinewy organ in a 2002 picture. The river begins in the Canadian province of British Columbia and crosses through the Yukon Territory and Alaska before emptying into the Being Sea.
The "Earth as Art" competition was timed to celebrate the Landsat program's 40th anniversary on Monday.
The longest-running Earth-observation satellite program in the world, Landsat has two spacecraft—Landsat 5 and Landsat 7—currently in orbit.
"We wanted to bring attention to the imagery for sure, but our target was also middle and high school kids—to get them thinking about what they were seeing," USGS's Beck explained.
For example, in the Yukon Delta image, "kids [invariably] say, Why are those lines like that? When you explain that they are streams emptying into the sea, they say, Well why does that happen?" Beck said.
"Soon they are talking about hydrology and geology and vegetation cover, and that was really our strategy: to get their attention and then to go from there and learn some science. So far it has worked beautifully."
Long yellow tendrils—enormous ridges of windblown sand—cross a Saharan sand sea called Erg Iguidi in a 1985 Landsat picture.
Extending through parts of Algeria and Mauritania, Erg Iguidi is home to giant dunes that can reach a third of a mile (about 500 meters) in both length and height.
While Landsat images can amaze the eye, they're primarily used for scientific endeavors.
For instance, the images help experts monitor water quality, track the movement of sea ice and glaciers, map land-use change and deforestation rates, and aid agricultural development or urban planning.
And when a disaster strikes—such as a fire, flood, or tsunami—the images can be employed to assess damage and aid disaster-relief efforts, as well as to aid in disaster-prevention efforts.
Patchwork pieces of partially dry Lake Eyre appear as a ghostly face in a 2006 Landsat picture.
The southern Australian lake is an ephemeral feature that ebbs and flows with the seasons and the years. It's the country's largest lake when completely full—but that's only happened three times in the past 150 years.