On July 23, 2013 the deep blue waters of the central North Atlantic Ocean provided a background for a spectacular bloom of phytoplankton. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured this true-color image of the event at 16:25 UTC (12:25 p.m. EDT) that same day.
Phytoplankton are tiny single-celled photosynthetic organisms that live suspended in a watery environment. They are primary producers in the ocean, forming the base of the marine food chain, and, like terrestrial plants, take up carbon dioxide, make carbohydrates from energy from light, and release oxygen.
Phytoplankton live in the ocean year round, but are usually not visible. When light, nutrients and water temperature are just right, however, a colony can explode into growth, creating huge blooms that stain the ocean for miles. While each organism lives only a short time, the high reproductive means that a bloom can last for days or weeks.