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Holiday calendar: Alien-looking clouds swirl on Earth

NASA / USGS via Abrams

Clouds swirl over the Aleutian Islands in a pattern known as a Karman vortex street, as seen in a Landsat 7 satellite image from July 4, 2002.

Abrams / GoodPlanet Foundation

"Earth From Space" features more than 100 satellite images of our home planet.

Spooky clouds that swirl over Alaska's Aleutian Islands look as if they came from Jupiter — and it turns out that the same phenomenon is at work on both planets.

This satellite view, captured by Landsat 7 in 2002, shows the pattern of atmospheric eddies that's characteristic of a "Karman vortex street." On Earth, these powerful chains of swirls arise when air flows over and around objects in its path. The Landsat 7 image is color-coded to indicate temperature variations and the size of raindrops in low-altitude clouds as they sweep over the Aleutians. On Jupiter, such vortices are generated by turbulence in the bands of clouds whipping around the giant planet.

The overhead view of the Aleutian vortices is one of more than 150 satellite images in "Earth From Space," a coffee-table book by environmentalist-photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, founder of the GoodPlanet Foundation. We've already featured a couple of the book's pictures in our Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which focuses on satellite views of our home planet during the month of December.

For more holiday goodies, check out The Atlantic's Hubble Advent CalendarZooniverse's Advent calendar and the Galileo's Pendulum Science Advent Calendar. And don't forget our Year in Space slideshow.

Previously on the Space Advent Calendar:

Check out the top space shots of 2013 — including astronaut antics, a surprised frog and a bright moon in the spotlight.

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.