[Note: At the bottom of this post is a gallery of more jaw-dropping pictures of volcanoes taken from space.]
I’ll admit it: sometimes I write posts just for the titles. But in this case I do have a very cool picture to go along with it: the volcano Batu Tara on the wee island of Pulau Komba in Indonesia, caught in a low-level eruption by NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite on August 15, 2012:
[Click to hephaestenate.]
How awesome is that? The island really is tiny, just about 3 kilometers (about 1.5 miles) across. The volcano has had mild activity going on now for about six years. The ash plume is right smack dab in the middle, rising straight up toward the sky – note the shadow on the lower left.
But what amazed me right away was the tremendous scar in the island left by previous eruptions. The summit of the volcano is about 800 meters above sea level – about half a mile! Since the island is so small, that means the slope of that runoff is really steep, probably around 45°. Technically, such a geologic feature is called a "scarp"… and now my title hopefully makes sense.
I love these images of volcanoes seen from space. We get a perspective on them that’s new, and amazing, and simply beautiful. And we learn so much! In another life, perhaps, I would’ve been a geologist. And hey, since the Earth’s a part of the Universe, it all boils down to astronomy anyway.