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."
(See "Satellite Pictures: 'Magnificent' Views of Earth.")