With winds that constantly whip dust across high plains, a nomadic
population that mostly lives in felt tents, and a local cuisine that
consists of fermented goat milk and stewed meats, Mongolia is not a
place for the pampered. This true-color image of Mongolia was acquired
on March 27, 2000, by the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
(MODIS), flying aboard NASAs Terra spacecraft. Most of the 2.3 million
Mongolians live on the vast, rolling, semi-arid, grass-covered plateaus
that stretch across eastern and northern Mongolia. In the image, these
areas are a dark reddish-brown. The faint herringbone pattern running
through eastern Mongolia is formed by the Kerulen and Orhon Gol rivers
and their tributaries.
The lighter reddish-brown areas covering most of southern Mongolia is the Gobi Desert. Vast and largely uncharted, the Gobi has become a favorite of fossil hunters from around the
world. Here ideal fossil specimens of Velociraptor and Protoceratops
have been unearthed. (See Finding Fossils from Space for more details.) Moving to the southwest corner of the country, one
can see the defined ridges that make up the sparsely vegetated Altai
Mountain Range, the highest mountains in Mongolia.
A number of lakes can be spotted to the northwest and the far north.
The drumstick-shaped lake at the northern tip of Mongolia is Hovsgol
Nuur, which is considered a national treasure in Mongolia with its
picturesque alpine surroundings and pristine water. Further north in
Russia, the long lake that is half surrounded by snow is the great Lake Baykal.
Reaching 1,620 meters (nearly one mile) in depth, Lake Baykal is the
deepest freshwater lake in the world and holds as much fresh water as
the shallower lakes Superior, Huron, Ontario, Michigan, and Erie combined.