Beautiful coloured pools discovered in desert

Rosie Vare

In May 2013, a NASA satellite was orbiting above the Colorado River in Utah when it spotted something quite out of the ordinary: an image of two large blue shapes shining brightly in the desert.

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In a huge expanse of brown desert, this is probably one of the last things you would expect to see, so what could it be?

The image was taken 25 miles west of the town of Moab, Utah.

Closer analysis also revealed patches of other colours including pinks, purples and yellows.

The coloured rectangles are too far out in the desert to be intended for use by the public so it was assumed these must be for industrial use.

Geological records reveal that this area contains large reserves of a chemical known as 'potash'.

Dr Madison Condon, a geologist, said: "Potash is a salt that occurs beneath the Earth's surface and it contains a lot of potassium and we mine it for use in fertiliser."

The mining that has been done in this area involves the use of large ponds - which goes part way towards explaining why these brightly coloured spaces have appeared.

In order to extract the potash the miners drill down and pipe water deep underground.

While this explains the pools of liquid, is does not explain the vivid blue colour in the picture.

It appears the colours are produced when a dye is added to the evaporation ponds - the deep blue colour absorbs the heat faster so it evaporates faster.