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Algae Are Painting the Black Sea With a Huge, Turquoise Swirl

You can see it from space.

A view of the swirl, patched together from photos by NASA's Aqua satellite.
A view of the swirl, patched together from photos by NASA’s Aqua satellite. Norman Kuring/NASA

In the early summer, the Black Sea belies its name. As currents swirl in from the Danube and the Dnieper, they bring in nutrients and cold water: a perfect environment for microscopic coccolithophores, tiny phytoplankton armored with reflective plates. When the sun reflects off these little beasts, the water they’ve colonized looks turquoise.

According to NASA, the painterly plankton are at it again—and this year’s blob is particularly bright and swirly. The agency released a photo of it, taken by their Aqua satellite, earlier this week.

This star’s-eye view is preferable to the one from the ground—a big, azure expanse that, the Guardian reports, has made some residents of Istanbul nervous about pollution. There’s nothing to worry about, though: besides being harmless and colorful, the phytoplankton are providing tons of food for anchovies and other small fish. Not bad for such a tiny creature.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.