CULTURE & ARTS

Entire Hidden Alphabet Discovered In NASA Photo Series

NOW we know our ABCs!
These space vowels appear in an alphabetic photo series curated by Adam Voiland, a science writer at NASA's Earth Observatory
These space vowels appear in an alphabetic photo series curated by Adam Voiland, a science writer at NASA's Earth Observatory.

The alphabet -- any alphabet, but in this case the familiar English alphabet -- can be seen as a pretty squarely manmade creation. Letters and words weren't discovered, but created by humans. 

As a new photo series compiled at NASA's Earth Observatory website reveals, however, what's manmade and what's naturally occurring can't be so easily separated. The series, curated and captioned by NASA science writer Adam Voiland, uses only NASA's satellite images and astronauts' photos to piece together A-Z in geological formations. He accompanies each photo with a Dr. Seuss-inspired caption listing scientific terms starting with the relevant letter.

"Geology is sometimes cast as a dry and boring field that is not worth learning about," Voiland told The Huffington Post in an email. By compiling this quirky gallery, he hopes to share "enthusiasm for science, especially the environmental sciences and geology" with his readers.

The resulting photos range from squint-inducing (wait, there's an "r" there?) to uncannily perfect, like the "e" that appears to have been inscribed in cursive by a giant smoky pen. Seeing them all assembled together is a bit mesmerizing, and, to a fontophile, inspiring. (Please, NASA, turn these photos into the coolest gag font ever!)

Compiling the alphabet wasn't an easy task, however. Voiland pointed out to HuffPost that making offbeat series like this one isn't in his primary job description. "Our site's main focus is on covering new science research and breaking natural hazards (such as wildfires, tropical cyclones, floods, and retreating glaciers)," he wrote. Since handling those coverage areas is, he said, more than a full-time job, working on the ABCs started as a fun side project. Even with the aid of several colleagues, the search for all 26 ended up taking three years.

Even now, he admits he's not quite satisfied with certain letters. "A, B, and R," he wrote in his article for the Earth Observatory, "were maddeningly difficult." Voiland would like to tweak the alphabet, and told HuffPost he's already getting ideas for replacing those three irksome letters from readers.

As for future galleries, Voiland told HuffPost that he and his coworkers have "joked around saying we should try doing Cyrillic or numbers." Duty calls, though, and that means the serious work of reporting on hard science and natural disasters. But maybe, in a few years, if we're lucky. Meanwhile, he wrote, he hopes the ABC gallery will help "show that we all live on the same remarkably beautiful, complex, and dynamic planet -- a planet that is well worth understanding, not to mention protecting."

See the full alphabet below, then check out the gallery at NASA's Earth Observatory for more on the project, especially Voiland's Seuss-y, science-y captions.

  • The letter A, depicted by&nbsp;an astronaut's&nbsp;<a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=83353">photogra
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter A, depicted by an astronaut's photograph of a bend in Utah’s Green River, taken from the International Space Station (January 22, 2014).
  • The letter B, represented by this satellite image of the Arkansas River and the Holla Bend Wildlife Refuge&nbsp;(August 4, 20
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter B, represented by this satellite image of the Arkansas River and the Holla Bend Wildlife Refuge (August 4, 2014).
  • The letter C, as shown by&nbsp;an astronaut's&nbsp;<a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=49117">photo</a
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter C, as shown by an astronaut's photo of a manmade island to the southernmost end of Bahrain Island (January 23, 2011).
  • The letter D, as played by this satellite image of&nbsp;Akimiski Island in James Bay, <a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.g
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter D, as played by this satellite image of Akimiski Island in James Bay, captured on The Enhanced Thematic Mapper on Landsat 7 (August 9, 2000).
  • The letter E, played&nbsp;by a satellite&nbsp;<a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=40924">image</a>&nbs
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter E, played by a satellite image showing a phytoplankton bloom near the New Zealand coast (October 25, 2009). 
  • The letter F, shown by&nbsp;a&nbsp;false-color satellite image of a snowy Tibetan mountain range&nbsp;(August 4, 2014).
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter F, shown by a false-color satellite image of a snowy Tibetan mountain range (August 4, 2014).
  • The letter G, as modeled by&nbsp;Pinaki Island in a <a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=1555">photo</a
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter G, as modeled by Pinaki Island in a photo from the International Space Station (April 2001.)
  • The letter H, in the form of&nbsp;a satellite&nbsp;image of&nbsp;southwestern Kyrgyzstan (August 30, 2014).
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter H, in the form of a satellite image of southwestern Kyrgyzstan (August 30, 2014).
  • The letter I, as shown by an <a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=7409">image</a>, from&nbsp;NASA&rsquo
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter I, as shown by an image, from NASA’s Terra satellite, of the Andaman Islands (February 10, 2007).
  • The letter J, as demonstrated by&nbsp;a satellite&nbsp;image of the Trunk Reef, off the coast of Queensland, Australia (July
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter J, as demonstrated by a satellite image of the Trunk Reef, off the coast of Queensland, Australia (July 17, 2015).
  • The letter K, as&nbsp;modeled by&nbsp;a satellite&nbsp;image of the Sirmilik National Park Pond Inlet in Mittimatalik, Canada
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter K, as modeled by a satellite image of the Sirmilik National Park Pond Inlet in Mittimatalik, Canada (August 3, 2015).
  • The letter L, as played by a satellite&nbsp;image of northeastern U.S. -- with snow&nbsp;(October 30, 2008).
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter L, as played by a satellite image of northeastern U.S. -- with snow (October 30, 2008).
  • The letter M, as represented by a satellite image of the Tian Shan mountains in northeastern Kyrgyzstan&nbsp;(August 14, 2015
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter M, as represented by a satellite image of the Tian Shan mountains in northeastern Kyrgyzstan (August 14, 2015).
  • The letter N, as shown by a&nbsp;satellite image of ship emissions tracks formed&nbsp;over the Pacific Ocean (March 4, 2009).
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter N, as shown by a satellite image of ship emissions tracks formed over the Pacific Ocean (March 4, 2009).
  • The letter O, as embodied by theTenoumer meteorite crater in Mauritania, in a&nbsp;satellite<a href="http://earthobservatory.
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter O, as embodied by theTenoumer meteorite crater in Mauritania, in a satellite image (January 24, 2008).
  • The letter P, as played by&nbsp;the Mackenzie River Delta in Canada, shown in a&nbsp;<a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.go
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter P, as played by the Mackenzie River Delta in Canada, shown in a false-color satellite image (August 4, 2005).
  • The letter Q, as modeled by&nbsp;Lonar Crater in India, from a&nbsp;satellite&nbsp;<a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter Q, as modeled by Lonar Crater in India, from a satellite image (November 29, 2004).
  • The letter R, as represented by&nbsp;Lago Menendez in Argentina, from a satellite image (January 20, 2015).
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter R, as represented by Lago Menendez in Argentina, from a satellite image (January 20, 2015).
  • The letter S, as shown by a&nbsp;satellite image of clouds above&nbsp;the Atlantic Ocean (April 29, 2009).
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter S, as shown by a satellite image of clouds above the Atlantic Ocean (April 29, 2009).
  • The letter T, as played by a satellite&nbsp;image of desert&nbsp;terrain in the United Arab Emirates, interrupted by vegetati
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter T, as played by a satellite image of desert terrain in the United Arab Emirates, interrupted by vegetation in developed areas (March 9, 2015).
  • The letter U, modeled by a&nbsp;satellite&nbsp;<a href="http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=5497">image</a> of
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter U, modeled by a satellite image of Gooseneck State Park in Utah (May 9, 2004).
  • The letter V, as modeled by ash on the slopes of&nbsp;Russian volcano&nbsp;Shiveluch, shown in a satellite&nbsp;<a href="http
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter V, as modeled by ash on the slopes of Russian volcano Shiveluch, shown in a satellite image (March 23, 2015).
  • The letter W, inscribed in dust blown over the Red Sea, caught by satellite&nbsp;(January 13, 2009).
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter W, inscribed in dust blown over the Red Sea, caught by satellite (January 13, 2009).
  • The letter X, as played by a corner of&nbsp;Leidy Glacier in Greenland, in a false-color satellite image (August 7, 2012).
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter X, as played by a corner of Leidy Glacier in Greenland, in a false-color satellite image (August 7, 2012).
  • The letter Y, as represented by the Ugab River in Namibia, shown in a false-color satellite image (December 25, 2000).
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter Y, as represented by the Ugab River in Namibia, shown in a false-color satellite image (December 25, 2000).
  • The letter Z, as played by smoke from a wildfire billowing over Canada, caught in a satellite image (July 11, 2012).
    NASA's Earth Observatory
    The letter Z, as played by smoke from a wildfire billowing over Canada, caught in a satellite image (July 11, 2012).

H/T Artnet

 

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