05 June, 2006

Volcanoes from space!

Via Bad Astronomy, here's a rather cool picture from low earth orbit of an ash plume erupting from Cleveland volcano (part of the Aleutian arc, and therefore a little bit lost).

This image was released by NASA's Earth Observatory (there's also a high-resolution shot available) and was taken by an astronaut currently on the ISS. As has been observed, this may be one of the more significant scientific contributions made by this $multibillion orbiting albino pachyderm. Yes, it is a pretty cool photo - but we have a lot of satellites out there who do this Earth observation thing full time, rather than just when they get the chance to peer out of a viewport. As an example, here's a couple of satellite images showing similar activity at Mount Merapi, in Java (which has been hitting the headlines recently). The second is a thermal image:

(images from here and here, respectively).

And, now that NASA is introducing software which allows its probes, rovers and satellites to independently direct their instruments towards interesting events (more details here), you can't even say that humans have the monopoly on choosing when to take the cool photos.

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