Santa Fe, New Mexico, sits nestled in the foothills of the southern end of the Rocky Mountains at 7,000 feet above sea level. Here, the chain of mountains is called the Sangre de Cristo Range—the Blood of Christ— a name given by the early Spanish colonists because in the setting sun, the stone of the mountains turns deep red. In this image, the Sangre de Cristo Range appears in the background (top portion). The image is shown from a western viewpoint, as though you were standing on a ridge on the west of town looking toward the east. The most densely developed area of the city is located just above center, and it appears lavender, as does Interstate 25, which runs toward the bottom right edge.
The city is located in a valley below the mountains in the drainage basin of the upper Rio Grande, one of the most important waterways in the area. Rivers and stream run down the western slopes of the mountain and flow into the “Big River,” which would be at your back as you overlooked Santa Fe from this perspective. The mountains around the city induce snowfall in winter, making this an unusual ski destination in the midst of the desert. Snowmelt is a critical component of the water supply for the city, as well as for downstream communities on the Rio Grande.
The city was founded as a capital by Spanish explorers in the early 17th century, but has been run at times by the local Pueblo tribes, Spain, Mexico, and even, briefly, the Confederate States of America. The city’s name means “the City of Holy Faith,” reflecting its role as a center for attempts to convert the local population to Catholicism under Spanish rule. It now is the political center of power for the state of New Mexico, and a cultural and artistic nexus that draws people from all over the world.
This visualization shows the city as seen by the Landsat 7 satellite’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) instrument. Data shown here use shortwave-infrared, near-infrared, and green wavelengths (ETM+ bands 7, 4, and 2), which have been pan sharpened to enhance the resolution and color balanced to simulate a natural-color appearance. The data were obtained from a collection of cloud-free scenes over all of North America collected by Landsat 7 in 2000 and stitched together by EarthSat Corporation for NASA. The subsection of the mosaic around Santa Fe was draped over a digital terrain model with realistic terrain (i.e., the differences in elevation among land surface features has not been exaggerated).