Hello Cleveland! Rock (and ash and lava) and roll!

By Phil Plait | June 3, 2006 11:50 am

Check. This. Out.

An astronaut aboard the ISS saw the Cleveland volcano erupting (that’s in the Aleutian Islands, folks, not Ohio) and snapped this image of it from orbit. Wow. The eruption was fairly minor, lasting only a couple of hours, but this is an incredibly dramatic photo. I am not a big fan of the space station (in fact, I believe I have used the word "useless" for it in the past) but on occasion some good comes of it.

From the article linked, it looks like the astronaut was the first person to know the volcano was erupting! That’s pretty cool, if true. You don’t generally think of space travel being useful this way, but there you go. There are hidden uses for being in space, things that may (I could really say "will") help us all in the long run. This is just a taste of that, and an amazing taste it is.’

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, NASA, Science

Comments (22)

Links to this Post

  1. Moonage Spacedream | June 5, 2006
  1. Samara

    Hello new background!

    I read in PopSci about how some investors could take the ISS off NASA and the other space agencies’s hands and turn it into a space hotel. Think it’s feasible?

  2. It’s gonna be the most expensive hotel in the solar system. :-)

  3. Jamie

    lol, I was definitely confused for a moment, because I’m in Cleveland right now and we definitely don’t have any vocanoes.

  4. Irishman

    ISS would make a lousy hotel. It’s small, crowded, and very noisy. It’s hard to sustain, hard to keep supplied, and going to get harder without Shuttle. People pay money to go there because it’s the only “there” there. Given a crew to sustain it and provide for the guests, there’s not much room for guests at all. 1 at a time is pretty dinky for a hotel. How many other hotels do you know that the staff outnumbers the guests consistently?

  5. Jianying Ji

    ISS is a tragedy. It was killed before ever given a chance to flourish. It will be deorbited just as we “complete” its construction. (check my facts on this, but I don’t think I’m far off.) It could have been a beacon in the sky, a shining outpost for all to see. Now it is being slowly being rotted away, with minimal use.

    My only comfort is that some time in the future, when the ISS is but a dim memory, that no body believe it ever existed. Something similar yet much greater will be resurrected in its place.

  6. Michelle Rochon

    Nice picture! That’s going to my wallpaper roll!

  7. Zart

    LOL. BA, you need to work on those headline puns!


  8. Chip

    That’s an amazing picture! I wish it were a video because I bet you could see the volcanic cloud moving over time.

    As far as ISS goes, we’re decades behind. We still need to design and build one of these:

  9. Dude

    Whoa! That’s minor? I want to see a major volcano now (that wouldn’t harm anybody) or at least a simulation of one!

  10. Phil, Volcanoes are monitored from Earth orbiting satellites, did you know? NASA has the Terra and SRTM satellites and ESA has InSAR. If you want to try something neat, you can calculate Cleveland’s ash cloud dispersion here.
    Volcanoes are pretty cool, er (cool), aren’t they?

  11. RAD

    This really doesn’t fit in anywhere here but its just too good to let go.
    I hope the link works if not just google amllard duck X-Ray and you’ll find plenty of writing about this.
    the X-Ray shows an alien face inside the duck. It is selling on ebay, the X-Ray that is, and going for $4800. I am in the wrong business!!! I can’t find the link now but one place talked about a couple hundred ducks with aliens inside on Mars. If you needed a good chuckle I hope this does it. Heres the ebay link.
    You gotta read the ebay listing for the real humor. I think maybe the duck died from wounds incurred while having an alien toy shoved up its butt.

  12. Steve Cooperman

    Sometimes things like this are better seen from the lower altitude of the ISS than by higher satellites:

    I perfectly understand the misgivings (and expense!!) of piloted vs robotic missions. Our robots are capable of some amazing things and have already “boldly gone where no people have gone before.” I’m thinking eruptions on Encedalus, nearing the magnetopause of the solar wind, etc.

    But there IS something to be said for lifting the human spirit — albeit safely!! — in these missions where real humans have a chance to work and make decisions in space.

    We got INTO space because Science Fiction, based on Science Fact, said that it was possible. I personally can’t wait until we get back to the Moon, whether we find a Tycho Magnetic Anomaly or not.

    And maybe, with humans on Mars, far better things could be done than those marvelous, long-lasting rovers have done.

    But first things first — if we don’t solve our global warming problems here, then all these dreams — robotic or not — will disappear in the next few decades as we all struggle to survive.

    How do we convince the power that be that global warming is here? In a short time, we’ve already done a good job of reversing ozone hole damage. . . .

    Ad astra, with robots or not,

    — Steve >>>>

  13. Michael Kearney

    Hi Phil: The snap of the Cleveland volcano was taken on the 23rd May 2005. I thought it had been taken today! DUH! , Check out the Alaska Volcano Observatory. I’m a faithful fan, Buzz.


  14. Michael Kearney

    Hi Phil: The snap of the Cleveland volcano was taken on the 23rd May 2005. I thought it had been taken today! DUH! , Check out the Alaska Volcano Observatory. I’m a faithful fan, Buzz.

  15. Holy Toledo!,,,xcuse me,,,Holy Cleveland. That photo looks like Jupiters moon Io’s volcanos somewhat. Our planet, seen from outer space, always looks “extra terrestial”.

  16. The gravity and magnetic field (plasma torus) on Io is a bit different.

  17. One answer for Irishman’s qu. : “How many other hotels do you know where the staff consistently outnumber the guests?”

    Fawlty Towers!

    Here’s a suggestion for the ISS – why not fly up some sort of propulsion system for it (Ion drive a la DS1 & DAWN? Solar sails ? Chemical rockets? Many options exist if we use some imagination) and transform it from space _station_ into space _ship_ ! Okay its a bit of lateral thinking but I reckon it could be done …

    Volcanoes wise what’s happening with Mt Merapi inndonesia – that’s been threatening to erupt for a while now ..

    Oh and Mt St Helens in the US of A is, I gather, still bubbling away .. Cleveland should be pretty safe though – but then I don’t know much about that place except that it hosts an Indycar Race .. and now that it has a volcanic namesake in the Aleutians. ūüėČ

    Thanks for the cool image – BA – when it comes to the ISS I support it as well as other things but Ido think alot more could be done with it if we show a little more vision and creativity .. ISS and Mars plus more, robots and human space exploration – these need not be either-or options but can both be done and done well – if you only put America’s energy, money, efforts and spirit to good use there rather than wasting it all invading or bullying every other nation on this planet… (Sigh)

    (Sorry to get political on y’all there but sheesh it bugs me! The potential versus the actual.)

  18. icemith

    I didn’t know that the Aleutian Islands had their own ‘HOLLYWOOD’ style names floating off shore of each island! Well it must be, ’cause the astronaut took the photo already captioned!

    Seriously, I thought the original idea for the International Space Station was as a jumping-off point for other space missions. That it would be the depot for, and the main rendevous point for the start and finish of all space exploration. The future spaceships would be assembled in the vicinity, (their own little industrial suburb?), and would subsequently be refurbished after each mission.

    I grew up with the then fantastic vision of the huge double cartwheel space station, that in my mind was Stanley Kubrick’s also, as it ended up in ‘2001, A SPACE ODYSSEY’, This did include a space hotel, with at least service from PAN AM from the ground. (sigh, I miss those iconic Airline names, so CEOs’ mind your businesses, and keep out of Chapter 11).

    I guess the present ISS is a far cry from that, but given past efforts it will happen, but not overnight.

    As for the volcano shot, yes it does look cool, and I know that Astronaut will drop everything to get an update every time he swings by. I check out Mt St. Helens every day from their webcam service, (thick cloud earlier today),


  19. okaasan59

    I read your later fart post and then scrolled down to see this picture. 0_o

  20. iGollum

    As a biologist, I believe that the ISS is at the very least a precious opportunity to study how living beings (from bacteria to humans) react to spaceflight conditions. If we want to send humans further into space on mid- and longterm missions, we still have a lot of work to do in order to make it safe for them. Plus, nice pictures :-)

  21. Eric

    There is nothing wrong with space stations or manned space per se.

    The problem with Shuttle and ISS are two-fold.

    First, they don’t have real missions. The scientific output isn’t great, and with the current staffing constraints, ISS is crewed by two caretakers without time to do any science, other than a little “man in space” stuff. And shuttle’s mission is currently “build ISS”.

    The second problem is purely one of cost. Even before Columbia, shuttle was killer expensive, and it’s only gotten worse with the increased work per launch and the drastically reduced launch rate (the vast majority of shuttle costs are fixed – you pay the whether you fly or not).

    The hugely dominant factor in human space efforts is launch costs. Shuttle flights pre-columbia cost around $500 million per flight, and can carry up to around 22000 Kg, for a cost of $22,000 per Kg. That’s if you don’t consider the cost of development, you fly enough, and you can carry that full weight each time. None of which are true.

    Prices for expendables to LEO (circa 2000)

    Ariane 5g – $4000 / Kg
    Proton $2000 / Kg

    NASA should commit themselves to getting the launch cost cheaper. If you can get down to the Ariane/Proton range – which is obviously possible – you can launch 10x as much as with shuttle. If you can get down to $1000 / Kg, space stations get more interesting.

    But to do that, you need something other than shuttle.

    (See http://www.futron.com/pdf/FutronLaunchCostWP.pdf for some interesting data)


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