Athena Review Image Archive  


Rivers Seen From Space:  The Mississippi River Delta


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This radar image of the Mississippi Delta taken from the Space Shuttle Endeavor on Oct. 2, 1994 shows an area of 63 by 43 km. where the Mississippi (largest  river in North America) flows south and enters the Gulf of Mexico. North is toward the upper right of the view, whose center is at 29.3 North Latitude, and 89.28 West Longitude.

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As the river meets the Gulf, it loses velocity and dumps its sediment in an expanding fan-shaped, or roughly triangular-shaped zone called a delta (named for the Greek letter shaped like a triangle). The specific form at the outer mouth of the Mississippi where its distributaries spread out and sediments expand into the sea is also sometimes known as a "bird's foot delta." The river's currents are notably strong to create this deltaic configuration. The accumulation of sediment is ever-changing, and the Mississippi's primary channel shifts frequently around in the delta.

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The current main shipping channel is the vertical stripe at left center, which contains numerous ships visible as white spots.  The surrounding areas consist of  coastal mudflats, marshes, and tidal pools.

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[Fig.1: The Mississippi River Delta (NASA/JPL SIR-C image).]

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