Icy swirls around a patient volcano

By Phil Plait | February 23, 2011 7:00 am

Just east of Russia and north of Japan lies a long series of island volcanoes called the Kuril chain. Over 50 volcanoes form this archipelago, which stretches for well over 1300 km (800 miles) in the western Pacific ocean. At the southern end is the bizarrely-shaped rectangle of Ostrov Shikotan, and in the winter icy waters swirl and flow around the snow-covered terrain:

Breathtaking, isn’t it? There are two extinct volcanoes on the island (it’s still seismically active though) and, amazingly, two settlements as well. Of course, this picture, taken in February from NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite, paints a very white and chilly picture. Satellite imagery in warmer times shows it to be much greener. There is some dispute over who owns the island; it’s part of Russia but the Japanese claim it as well.

I suspect in the very long run, it doesn’t matter. The Earth owns this parcel of land. The geology indicates it’s been battered by eons of tsunamis and earthquakes. Humans may thrust out their chests and thump them, but the vast and mighty forces of a entire planet have squatting rights here, I think.

I love these satellite views of volcanoes from space, and I’ve collected quite a few into a gallery slideshow (I almost have enough to create a whole new set now, too). Click the thumbnail picture to get a bigger picture and more information, and scroll through the gallery using the left and right arrows.]


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures

Comments (12)

  1. Bruce

    As someone with a great interest in fluid mechanics, I cant help but notice the almost perfectly formed mushroom of a Rayleigh-Taylor instability.

  2. You and volcanos. Are you sure you don’t have a secret desire to be a geologist of some flavour? ūüėČ

    Unlike Earth observing satellites, which point straight down

    Can’t some satelites be positioned as to give other than straight down looks? I thought so (of course at an expenditure of fuels and such).

  3. Not all EO satellites point straight down. My company tasked Ikonos from 2003 – 2009 and WorldView-1 and -2 starting since 2010. All 3 satellites can and frequently do collect very high resolution imagery at (sometimes very) oblique angles.


  4. @ Larian: Some satellites can point in virtually any direction (although some directions are forbidden as not to damage the sensors) without using fuel. They use control moment gyros or reaction wheels instead.

  5. Great set of pics.

    BTW, one of the adds on the sidebar is selling a product that advertises “RNA Purification,” smells like a lot of Wu to me.

  6. I think I may prefer Icee Swirls. They’re delicious.

  7. Joseph G

    I agree with Larian. Phil, you don’t need to keep your true self hidden away. We’re your friends! We love and accept you no matter what. If, deep inside, you feel the urge to practice Volcanology, we won’t judge you. I promise! ūüėÄ

    @5 Thomas: The sidebar of this blog? Or a link? I’ve seen some pretty woo-ey Google ads on linked sites, but not here.
    I looked it up – despite its new-agey sounding name, RNA purification is apparently a common lab technique used in genetics research. So we’re safe :)

  8. BJN

    Geology is just the study of the most accessible planetary body. A subset of astronomy, as it were.

  9. Jeffersonian
  10. One of the reasons I re-visit BABlog time and time again is the magnificent pictures. I use many of them as desktop-backgrounds.

    Really nice! :)

  11. Bobby

    That’s such a great picture. I love the icy swirls.
    But why call it Ostrov Shikotan? “Ostrov” means “island” and the actual name is just Shikotan. Or is this kind of like the astronaut/cosmonaut thing?


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