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Glowing NASA map shows the huge clouds of dust swirling about the Earth

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

We live our lives wandering from one cloud of dust to the next. The air is full of the things: salt wafting in the sea, black carbon, soot from forest fires and all kinds of dusty emissions from heavy industry.

Usually, all that aerosolized substance is invisible to us, but not on the NASA satellites and ground sensors. In a stunning new image shown above, NASA’s Earth Observatory reveals the invisible, tiny particles that are around us.

NASA combined data from multiple sensors on satellites such as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on Aqua and Terra, as well as the ground-based sensors, to create a colorized image of the aerosol plumes. [Earth Pictures: Iconic Images of Earth from Space]

Some of these dust clouds are the result of weather conditions. Hurricane Lane in the vicinity of Hawaii and the typhoons Soulik and Cimaron for the coast of Japan have all kicked sea salt in the atmosphere. Over the Sahara Desert in northern Africa and the Taklamakan Desert in the northwest of China, landlocked wind, in the same way formed clouds of fine dust.

The west of North America, and south-and central-Africa reveal signatures of a different type of aerosol: smoke from fires, often by humans — either intentionally, as part of the annual agricultural cycles in Africa, or through carelessness, as in North America. Some of that smoke from North America seems to have drifted east across the Atlantic Ocean in the image.

NASA noted that this image was not shot by a single camera, and it’s not even a composite of a group of images held directly by satellite or ground sensors. Instead, NASA used careful mathematics to bring together data from a range of different types of sources to find out where the densest concentrations of particles in the atmosphere are now.

Originally published on Live Science.

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