Terra spots a volcanic plume

By Phil Plait | December 9, 2009 7:39 am

On NASA’s Earth Observatory site, a picture was just posted that’s too pretty not to share. It’s a plume escaping from the Bezymianny Volcano in Kamchatka on November 25:


Cooool. It was taken by the Earth-observing satellite Terra, using ASTER: the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer. The image is in false color; the white plume suggests it’s mostly steam, and not laden with the usual ash and dust (the brown you see in the image is the shadow of the plume on the terrain).

I highly recommend the Earth Observatory website Image of the Day if you like looking at beautiful imagery of our home planet. And if you have more suggestions for such sites, leave them in the comments below!

Image credit: Robert Simmon, based on data from the NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.


Comments (17)

  1. A plume has been spotted? On the Earth?

    Curse you, Moon people! This means war!

  2. Trebuchet

    I’m having a little trouble figuring out something in the picture. Extending northwest is a brown shadowed area, a different color than the distinct dark gray shadow that’s annotated. Is this:
    1) More shadow, of a more tenuous area of the plume,
    2) A layer of eject staining the snow of the adjacent mountains,
    3) Perhaps a shadow of some high clouds?

    Anyhow, cool picture. We in the Northwest saw a lot of pictures (or actually, a lot of instances of one picture) of Bezymianni in the early 1980’s due to the similarity of it’s 1950’s eruption, collapse, and dome formation to that of Mt. St. Helens.

  3. Great image. I keep hearing the statistic that we’ve only critically explored 25% of the surface of the earth. Much of the terrestrial crust and virtually all of the deep oceans remain unvisited and uncharted. Another such statistic is that we have better data about the surface of the moon than we do about much of the Earth.

    I’m not sure how true these statistics are but, even if they’re hugely inaccurate, they still underscore the fact that we have vast amounts to learn about our own world.

  4. kevbo

    That would be cool to see as a 3D image…

    (Dr. Tongue’s 3D Plume of DEATH?)

  5. Mark

    @Trebuchet – I think it looks like answer 1: more shadow, of a more tenuous portion of the plume. When I look at it, it looks like the annotated part of the shadow is the thicker plume closest to the cone. I think where the shadow goes left and up is where the wind is catching and dissipating the plume.

  6. John Keller
  7. Bill

    You are watching the Earth Observatory Image of the Day website.


    (with apologies to His Hrabness…)

  8. Regner Trampedach

    Eh – take a look at the original image and go up a bit and you’ll see a bigger plume. That plume comes out of a classic cone-shaped volcano which casts an impressive triangular shadow. And the shadow of that plume is pretty impressive too…
    Thanks for the post, Phil.
    – Regner

  9. Lord Xenus’ plan is still at work. :)

  10. Frank

    Thanks, Sir Eccles @7

    I came here to see if the BA had a comment about the Norwegian mystery-spiral-light-thing.

    It’s weird. The details in those long exposure photos makes me think, that it couldn’t simply be a missile that have been spiraling because of some defect. And the videos seems to confirm that the photos are not fakes.

  11. Padawanpooh

    Thanks, as always, for the excellent recommendations, Dr Plait.

    I can recommend the new British Geological Survey site (http://www.bgs.ac.uk/opengeoscience/) has several excellent sections including an image section called Geoscenic with thousands of gorgeous images taken around the UK – http://geoscenic.bgs.ac.uk/asset-bank/action/viewHome

  12. Dewd

    …four minutes later the follow-on shephard spacecraft crashed in the same place, and scientists on Zort analyzing the plume were delighted they had proven the pretty blue planet was loaded with alcohol. After all, it hit Russia….

  13. Andrew

    Does anyone else know the location of Kamchatka due only to RISK? I don’t think I’ve ever learned about it elsewhere!

  14. Flying sardines

    ^^ Well it is on the world globe and maps. ūüėČ

    But yeah, you don’t hear about it too much in the general media.

    Awesome volcano picture there. Thanks BA. :-)

  15. Voss

    The name Bezymianny Volcano looks an awful lot like “unnamed volcano” in Russian – “bezimeni vulkan.”


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