On November 14, 2013 NASA’s Terra satellite flew over south central Asia, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying aboard to capture a nearly cloud-free true-color image of the region.
Sweeping from west to east across the image are the snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas. Meaning “abode of the snow” in Sanskrit, the Himalayas stretch about 1,500 mi (2,400 km) across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan and Nepal, and separate the Tibetan Plateau in the north from the more fertile plains to the south. The Himalayas are the third largest deposit of snow and ice in the world, following Antarctica and the Arctic, and are home to about 15,000 glaciers.
These snowy peaks are also the sources of many major rivers, including the many tributaries of the Ganges River, which can be seen running nearly parallel to the mountains in India, where the river valley is veiled with a cloud of smoke, haze and pollution. The mountain snows and glaciers also give rise to the Brahmaputra River, which runs roughly parallel to the mountains in the east. These rivers join in Bangladesh, forming the Ganges Delta. Muddy waters flow from the Delta into the Bay of Bengal.