NASA’s Aqua satellite flew over western China on November 17, 2013, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard to capture a striking true-color image of high mountains and dry desert.
In the center of the image, the Taklamakan Desert wears a heavy tan veil, caused by a large dust storm blowing fine particles of sand over the entire basin. Shifting sand dunes cover about 85 percent of the desert floor, providing an excellent source for frequent sand storms.
Brilliant white snow sits on the mountains surrounding the dust-filled desert basin. The northern range is the Tien Shan Mountains, to the west are the Pamir Mountains, and the Kunlun Shan Mountains are to the south and southeast. Precipitation, which is less than 20 mm per year average in the central desert, is much more abundant in the high mountains.