Fire and ice

By Phil Plait | January 24, 2011 12:15 pm

I love all these fantastic pictures of volcanoes we’re getting from space, but I think I have a new favorite: the Onekotan Island caldera, covered in snow, as seen by the astronauts on the International Space Station:

Click to Hephaestenate and get the stunning full-res shot.

What a magnificent photograph! The south (left) side of Onekotan is a collapsed caldera; magma filled a gigantic chamber underneath the cone, building up enormous pressure, until one day it exploded. Once the chamber emptied the mountain above and around it collapsed down, leaving that huge depression 7.5 km (4.6 miles) wide. Eventually water filled the bowl, forming the Kal’tsevoe Lake, and a new volcanic stratovolcano, Krenitzyn Peak, built up in the lake.

On the other side (north or right) is the smaller lake Chernoe, the remnants of a caldera that’s millennia old. Nemo peak is a new volcano forming there in the ashes of the old. The entire island is about 43 km (26 miles) long, with Krenitzyn topping out at 1350 meters, and Nemo at just over 1000. It’s part of the Kuril chain of volcanic islands that stretch north of Japan up to Kamchatka.

Those are the stats and the scientific facts. They’re interesting, certainly, but really it’s the simple beauty of the picture that’s so enthralling. Covered in a layer of snow, this island hardly looks like it could have had the incredibly violent history it must have experienced.

I have a gallery of amazing volcano pictures taken from space, and this one is clearly among the most beautiful of them. I think that science is at its best when it reveals both the incredible inner and outer beauty of nature.


Related posts:

Sunrise eruption
Remnants of a violent past
Volcano study in red
Blowin’ off some scream


Comments (11)

  1. You and your galleries. One of these days I will actually get something accomplished at work, but not today…

  2. Bobin Easton

    Man…that looks cold.

  3. Awesome, awesome picture–I love calderas. But my innate tendency toward pareidolia (and yes, I had to look up how to spell it) sees a one-eyed face with a happy little grin.

  4. alfaniner

    It looks like it could actually be in the sky — God’s giant bottle opener! (I’d love to see that bottle of Duff — it just might be enuff!)

  5. I think that science is at its best when it reveals both the incredible inner and outer beauty of nature.

    And a big ol’ atheistic “amen” to that!

  6. Lately, Ole Nielsen has been doing a series of posts explaining the geology of some of the Pacific sea mounts, volcanoes, trenches, ect.

    my.opera.com/nielsol/blog/

    The last time I posted links, they didn’t make it through the spam filter, so you will have to cut and paste.

  7. Chet Twarog

    Thanks, J. Major
    Agreed!

  8. Gary Ansorge

    4. alfaniner

    “(I’d love to see that bottle of Duff — it just might be enuff!)”

    Can God drink a bottle of beer so large, it would be enough???

    From the way the universe runs, if there is a god, it must be Homer Simpson,,,he didn’t even get the cosmological constant right.

    Lovely pic, Phil. Looks like its floating on air.

    Gary 7

  9. Messier Tidy Upper

    Great picture. :-)

    @8. Gary Ansorge Says:

    4. alfaniner : “(I’d love to see that bottle of Duff — it just might be enuff!)”
    Can God drink a bottle of beer so large, it would be enough???

    Methinks, the same answer applies here as does to the notorious question of : “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

    The answer to quote Marcus from Babylon-5 : “As many as want to!”

    (I forget which episode specifically he said that, if someone wishes to clarify, please, help be my guest & help me out there! ;-) )

    *If* there is a God and She / It / He wants a bottle of beer large enough to satisfy His / Her / Its thirst I’m sure It/ She /he could create one. Because y’know, God & all! ;-)

    Homer Simpson as God? Well, there are worse candidates! ;-)

  10. Gary Ansorge

    9. Messier Tidy Upper

    “Homer Simpson as God? Well, there are worse candidates! ”

    Homer, at least, is not determinedly cruel, just dumb as a brick. The God of the old testament is an obnoxious and arrogant dick,,,rather like the guy who wrote it.

    Gary 7

  11. Floyd

    Well, it looks like “Finding Nemo” (wife’s favorite Disney film) has actually happened.

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