Tectonic forces over millions of years have folded the region’s layers of colorful rock. Erosion has since exposed them.
An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the rugged landscape of the Aladaghlar Mountains in northwestern Iran. Ridges cast shadows in the valleys and other low elevation areas, creating a three-dimensional appearance. Human alterations to the landscape are most evident in riverbeds, where the even topography is easier to build on and navigate.
Natural processes over millions of years have folded rock layers of various compositions and colors into the curved patterns seen here. These folds are produced by tectonic forces operating along the convergent plate boundary of the Arabia and Eurasia plates. The convergence of these tectonic plates causes uplift, folding, and deformation of the colorful rock layers, and subsequent erosion exposes them.
On the left side of this photo, the Qezel Ozan River, a major river in northern Iran, cuts across the landscape. Agricultural fields are visible along the riverbanks tucked between the mountains. The Qezel Ozan also intersects the Zanjan-Tabriz freeway (Freeway 2), a major thoroughfare built on a dried riverbed connecting the cities of Tehran and Tabriz.
Astronaut photograph ISS069-E-89946 was acquired on September 19, 2023, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 400 millimeters. The image was provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 69 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Caption by Sara Schmidt, GeoControl Systems, JETS II Contract at NASA-JSC and Andrea Wenzel, Jacobs-JETS II Contract at NASA-JSC.