An Astronaut’s Tour: Cuba from 225 Miles Up


Amazing photos from NASA offer a different angle on the island’s beauty

As summer hits its peak, our thoughts turn toward water—specifically, the waters of the Caribbean, viewed from approximately 225 miles up.

Inspired by a recent article in Cubadebate—and an earlier one in Cuba Journal—we searched through NASA’s online image bank for shots of the island and its surroundings. Here are our picks for an astronaut’s tour of the island.

Cuba and Jamaica. June 8, 2001

This first photo is also the oldest. Taken on June 8, 2001, it shows all of Cuba, including the Isla de Juventud on the southwest side. Jamaica is at the lower right and part of the Florida Keys are visible at the upper edge, just left of center.

The bright aquamarine color in the water is probably caused by brighter solar reflection over shallower water.

Caribbean Sea Viewed from the International Space Station. July 15, 2014

The lights of central Cuba are visible at the lower left of this image. Higher up, the long strips of light just left of the center outline Miami and the Florida peninsula. Above them are more northerly parts of Florida and the US South. Parts of the Bahamas are also visible.

Western Cuba, Florida, and the Bahamas. 2006

This image shows columns of smoke rising from forest fires in Matanzas, on the northern coast, and Pinar del Río to the west.

Western Cuba and Gulf of Batabanó. July 13, 2016

Jeff Williams, commander of International Space Station Expedition 48, took multiple photographs as the spacecraft flew over western Cuba. This composite image (above) was assembled from those photographs.

This image of Havana was taken by Landsat 7, a satellite launched in 1999 specifically to update NASA’s images of the earth.

The city appears in gray and red, surrounded by green vegetation. The Gulf of Mexico appears as dark blue. East of Havana Bay, the Almendares River flows north into the Florida Straits.

Western Cuba. December 26, 2013

This image shows the western part of Cuba, including the Isla de Juventud and the narrow island keys off its southeastern shore. The dark peninsula to the right of the bright aquamarine ocean is home to the Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata, a preserve known for its wildlife and conservation programs.

Cayo Largo del Sur, Cuba. November 2005

After the Isla de Juventud, Cayo Largo is the second-largest island in Cuba’s Canarreos Archipelagos. It is a limestone island, formed from the same marine organisms that create coral reefs. Christopher Columbus is said to have come ashore there on his second expedition in 1494. Today it is a resort island known for its beaches and scuba diving.

Cuba, Looking from East to West. March 25, 2018

This view of the island stretches from Santiago de Cuba, on the eastern coast (at left) toward Havana to the north. The Isla de Juventud is visible in the Gulf of Batabanó.

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