The great Okavango Delta in the Kalahari Desert is illuminated in the Sun’s reflection point in this panorama taken from the International Space Station (ISS). Using this sunglint technique, astronauts can capture the fine detail of water bodies.
In this image, the bright line of the Okavango River shows the annual summer flood advancing from the well-watered Angolan Highlands (upper image margin). The flood water slowly seeps across the 150 kilometer-long (100 mile) delta—supplying forests and wetlands—and finally reaches the fault-bounded lower margin of the delta in the middle of winter. The wetlands support a highly diverse number of plant and animals species in the middle of the otherwise semiarid Kalahari Desert. For this reason, the Okavango Delta is now one of the most famous tourist sites in Africa.
Most of the water from the Okavango River is consumed by forests or evaporates in the dry air. Only 2 percent of the river’s water actually exits the delta. This photograph shows the small quantity of water exiting through the Boteti River. Okavango water only reaches the dry lake floors (visible on the lower edge of the large image) in the wettest years.
Part of one of the ISS solar arrays is visible on the right.