Tag: volcano

Incredible surreal volcanic riverscapes

By Phil Plait | October 2, 2012 7:00 am

The profound effect of volcanoes on their surroundings is sometimes difficult to grasp. Of course there are the obvious consequences of the aftermath of an eruption: the rock, the ash, the lava, the destruction of the landscape.

But more than that, they affect the water around them as well, in ways that can be as profound as they are bizarre and – for lack of a better term – psychedelic.

I offer this as proof:

[Oh yes, click to hephaestenate that.]

Russian photographer Andre Ermolaev took that shot. He flies over the twisted terrain of Iceland and takes pictures that are so surreal they almost defy description. The one above shows a river flowing through the volcanically-modified area, taken from a height of about 150 meters. His other pictures are equally odd and captivating (I found this one particularly compelling). You really should visit his site and click through his series of photos. He has quite a few on 500px as well.

I frequently post pictures of volcanoes taken from space because I love them so – I have so many I’ve had to create two separate galleries to show them all: Gallery 1 and Gallery 2 – but of course, from hundreds of kilometers above you miss the details. Ermolaev gets above them but stays close enough to remind us that the Earth is spectacular, gorgeous, dynamic, and even though it’s home, can sometimes look as alien as anything seen in a science fiction movie.

Tip o’ the lens cap to This Is Colossal.


Related Posts:

Looking down on the snow of Kilimanjaro
The ancient shields of paradise
That such a place exists
Desktop Project part 20: Angling in on a smoking volcano

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Andre Ermolaev, volcano

Escaped scrap scrapes steep scarp

By Phil Plait | September 5, 2012 7:00 am

[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.

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ali_tinakula_volcano
eo-1_zubair_redsea
eo1_baganavolcano
eo1_elhierro_02102012
eo1_shikotan_ice
eo1_spcrater
eoa_ubinas
iss-paganvolcano
iss_avachinsky_volcano
iss_onekotan
landsat7_tahiti
terra_shiveluch_fir
terra_shiveluch_vis
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Floating rocks in the ocean lead to an undersea eruption… seen from space!

By Phil Plait | August 21, 2012 6:44 am

[Note: At the bottom of this post is a gallery of more amazing pictures of volcanoes taken from space.]

Sometimes, the best way to observe the Earth is to get off it. It really helps if you want to solve some mysteries.

And scientists had a good one on their hands in recently. You should really read the journal of science journalist Rebecca Priestly, who reported on all this first hand, but here’s a summary. On August 9, the crew of the HMNZS Canterbury were on a scientific voyage in the Pacific when they got word to change course. A huge anomaly was reported near their position, and it looked like it might be a gigantic floating "raft" of pumice, possibly from an undersea eruption. They got samples, and sure enough it was pumice. Such rafts have been seen before from other volcanic eruptions.

But what volcano was at the root of this one? Early guesses were that it was from Monowai, which had recently erupted in early August. But satellite imagery taken on July 19 – weeks earlier – pinpointed the location of the raft’s origin:

[Click to hephaestenate.]

This image, taken by NASA’s Terra Earth-observing satellite, shows the eruption of the Havre Seamount, located a few hundred kilometers northeast of Auckland, New Zealand. The plume is clearly visible. The gray patch right in the middle of the picture is the floating island of pumice. To the left of the plume is teal water, stained by ash. The volcano itself is more than a thousand meters under the sea’s surface, but the eruption was strong enough to break through. At the time this image was taken, the raft was already about 15 kilometers (9 miles) long. It eventually grew to more than 20,000 square kilometers (about 10,000 square miles).

This area of the ocean is very, very large, and without satellite images the exact location of this volcano would have been very difficult to spot. Scientists from Tahiti and New Zealand were able to connect earthquake reports on July 17 and 18 to the event (even though they occurred long before the raft was first sighted), and then other scientists were able to find the above image in the Terra archives. It took collaboration, people from around the world, and the open nature of science to be able to find the culprit volcano behind this mysterious event.

Science! Solving mysteries we otherwise couldn’t! I love this stuff.

Image credit: Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC

terra_kizimen_2011055
ali_tinakula_volcano
eo-1_zubair_redsea
eo1_baganavolcano
eo1_elhierro_02102012
eo1_shikotan_ice
eo1_spcrater
eoa_ubinas
iss-paganvolcano
iss_avachinsky_volcano
iss_onekotan
landsat7_tahiti
terra_shiveluch_fir
terra_shiveluch_vis
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures, Science

Desktop Project Part 20: Angling in on a smoking volcano

By Phil Plait | April 14, 2012 10:02 am

[The Desktop Project is an excuse for me to clear all the way cool astronomical images I have siting on my computer desktop. I’m posting one every day until they run out, which will actually be pretty soon. I’m catching up!]

Volcano pictures taken from space are a favorite of mine. Satellites that take photos of the ground are generally designed to see straight down (toward the nadir, the opposite of the zenith), and these are always nifty. But there’s a special place in my heart for pictures taken by astronauts in the International Space Station, because unlike satellites, they can see off to the side. And there’s something about a shot of a volcano chugging away when seen from an angle…

Like this one! [Click to haphaestenate.]

That’s Pagan Island, part of the Mariana Islands. This island chain is a series of volcanoes formed at the seam of two tectonic plates, where one plate is being pushed down under another (and forms the Mariana trench). Pagan is actually two volcanoes; the other is across the isthmus from the one that’s erupting. The active volcano in this pictures is about 570 meters (about 1/3 mile) high and 7 km (4 miles) across.

The space station was hundreds of kilometers south of the volcano when the astronaut snapped this picture, which is why we have an oblique view of the eruption. The island is uninhabited; an eruption in 1981 forced the evacuation of the small population that lives there. Since then it’s been fairly active, though nothing as big as the 1981 event. [UPDATE: I’ve been informed that there actually are a handful of people on the island; some Chamorros are still there, living off the land. I have to wonder — given the small size of the island, its volcanic activity, and the small number of people who must be there — if this is a good idea in the long run.]

This plume looks white, so it’s probably mostly water vapor as opposed to ash. I’ll note that since no one is on the island anymore, one of the only ways to monitor this volcano is by satellite imagery like this. And personally, I think it’s a Very Good Idea that we keep an eye on our active planet.

Image credit: NASA


Related Posts:

Desktop Project Part 11: Upside down volcano plume
Desktop Project Part 7: A new volcano parts the Red Sea. Kinda.
Desktop Project Part 4: Underwater volcano in teal
Verdant volcano in a silvery sea

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Desktop Project Part 11: Upside down volcano plume

By Phil Plait | April 5, 2012 7:00 am

[Over the past few weeks, I’ve collected a metric ton of cool pictures to post, but somehow have never gotten around to actually posting them. Sometimes I was too busy, sometimes too lazy, sometimes they just fell by the wayside… but I decided my computer’s desktop was getting cluttered, and I’ll never clean it up without some sort of incentive. I’ve therefore made a pact with myself to post one of the pictures with an abbreviated description every day until they’re gone, thus cleaning up my desktop, showing you neat and/or beautiful pictures, and making me feel better about my work habits. Enjoy.]

I imagine it gets pretty cold in the Russian Kamchatka peninsula in winter. Even an active volcano belching out steam might not be able to help much… but it sure looks pretty cool!

That’s the Kizimen volcano, which has been erupting since late 2010. This picture was taken by the Earth Observing-1 satellite in December of 2011. As you can see, snow is abundant, except where ash has fallen and shaded the ground brown. The plume is steam, but that must freeze pretty quickly once it hits that frigid air.

Even so, thermal imagery of the site shows fresh lava on the ground is still heating the place up. But, I’m guessing given the rest of this picture, not very much!

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: EO-1, Kamchatka, Kizimen, volcano

Desktop Project Part 7: A new volcano parts the Red Sea. Kinda

By Phil Plait | April 1, 2012 7:00 am

[Over the past few weeks, I’ve collected a metric ton of cool pictures to post, but somehow have never gotten around to actually posting them. Sometimes I was too busy, sometimes too lazy, sometimes they just fell by the wayside… but I decided my computer’s desktop was getting cluttered, and I’ll never clean it up without some sort of incentive. I’ve therefore made a pact with myself to post one of the pictures with an abbreviated description every day until they’re gone, thus cleaning up my desktop, showing you neat and/or beautiful pictures, and making me feel better about my work habits. Enjoy.]

It probably won’t surprise you to hear I’m not exactly a Biblical literalist. Still, parts of the Bible are known to be based on actual events, so when something turns up that sounds like one of the stories come true, it’s not always surprising.

Still, I always figured the parting of the Red Sea was wholly fictional. But now something has turned up hat makes me wonder if it could’ve sparked — literally — the legend: a volcano has poked its head up from above the waters of the Red Sea.

Here’s the scene on October 24, 2007, as seen by the Earth Observing-1 satellite:

[Click to enhaphaestenate.]

That all looks pretty normal. Calm seas, a couple of islands (Haycock Island to the north (left), and Rugged Island to the south, both about a kilometer long), no biggie.

Now take a look at the same scene on December 23, 2011:

[Click to Cecilbdemillenate.]

Holy smoke! Look at that: a whole new volcano! This is happening off the coast of Yemen near a group of islands called the Zubair Group. This region is in a rift zone, where two tectonic plates are pulling apart, so volcanic activity isn’t too surprising.

And it wouldn’t surprise me at all if something like this were the genesis* of the story from Exodus. A big eruption could cause big waves, flooding, disasters on a smallish scale… and over time the story grew, had bits added to it, and next thing you know there’s an overwrought movie with Charlton Heston yelling at the water and shaking a stick at it.

To me, the story of science is always better than the ones we humans make up or embellish, though. Look at that: a brand new volcano, born right before our eyes, and all courtesy of space travel, satellites, good detectors, and a burning, unending desire to understand the world better.

There’s a revelation for you.

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team.


*HAHAHAHAHAHA! I kill me.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures, Religion

Desktop Project Part 4: Underwater volcano in teal

By Phil Plait | March 29, 2012 7:00 am

[Over the past few weeks, I’ve collected a metric ton of cool pictures to post, but somehow have never gotten around to actually posting them. Sometimes I was too busy, sometimes too lazy, sometimes they just fell by the wayside… but I decided my computer’s desktop was getting cluttered, and I’ll never clean it up without some sort of incentive. I’ve therefore made a pact with myself to post one of the pictures with an abbreviated description every day until they’re gone, thus cleaning up my desktop, showing you neat and/or beautiful pictures, and making me feel better about my work habits. Enjoy.]

I love pictures of volcanoes taken from Earth-observing satellites. I’ve posted lots of ‘em, but I don’t think I’ve seen one quite like this:

That is an underwater volcano that’s been erupting since October of 2011. This picture, taken by the Earth Observing-1 satellite on February 10, 2012, shows the result. The teal water is sea water mixed with volcanic material swept around by the current. This volcano is located just offshore of El Hierro, the southwestern most of the volcanic Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco.

In case you were thinking those colors aren’t real, then take a look at this footage shot from a helicopter circling the volcano.

Yeah, those colors are real. Wow.

As you might expect, the volcano is growing. The peak is 210 meters (690 feet) above the sea floor, but only about 120 meters (390 feet) below the ocean surface. In one month it rose 10 meters! If it keeps erupting like this, then it won’t be too much longer before maps of the Canary Islands will have to be appended…

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Verdant volcano in a silvery sea

By Phil Plait | March 5, 2012 7:00 am

I am endlessly fascinated by volcanoes — their power, the science behind them, and of course their terrible beauty. I’ve stood on a few (though never an active one — but that’ll happen someday!) and they are among the most amazing geological features on our planet.

In the past few years, we’ve started getting incredible high-resolution pictures of volcanoes from space, and they never cease to amaze me. One I saw recently really got to me: the south Pacific volcano Tinakula, located over 2000 km northeast of Australia:

Ye. Gads. [Click to hephaestenate.]

This shot was taken by the Earth Observing-1 satellite, and shows the volcanic island in the ocean. The colors are stunning: the deep green of the vegetation on the volcanic slope, and the bizarre silvery color of the ocean. This image is actually natural color; the silver is due to the way the sunlight is reflecting and glinting off the choppy water.

Tinakula is sporadically active, and you can see the plume of steam (probably with some ash mixed in) blowing out. You can also see the shadows on the water; the sunlight is coming from the right.

This is a sparsely populated region, and observations of the volcano are pretty rare. But from space, everything on the surface of the Earth is visible at some point. And while you can’t keep a constant eye on such things, even the occasional shot like this helps scientists understand what’s going on below the surface. This helps us understand volcanoes, of course, but also adds to the knowledge database of geologists, vulcanologists, and seismologists. And given the number of people who live near active volcanoes, this knowledge saves lives. It really is that simple: the better we understand the world — the Universe — around us, the better off we are.

Image credit: NASA/Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon (Earth Observatory)


I love these satellite views of volcanoes from space, and I’ve collected quite a few into a gallery slideshow. Click the thumbnail picture to get a bigger picture and more information, and scroll through the gallery using the left and right arrows.]

manam_volcano
aqua_iceland_05102010
aster_merapi
eo-1_villarrica
eo1_kizimen_ali
eo1_krakatoa
iss_cleveland
iss_etna_2002
iss_kamchatka
mayon_volcano
soufriere_collapse
tandem_radar_etna
terra_etna
terra_eyjafjallajokull
terra_iceland_volcano
terra_klyuchevskaya
volcano_on_volcano

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

As from above, so from below

By Phil Plait | January 10, 2012 7:00 am

NASA’s Earth Observatory site just put up this amazing picture. I have to say, this is one of the cooler pictures from the International Space Station that I’ve seen. Not for it’s beauty or anything like that — though it is starkly lovely — but because of what it shows:

[Click to dicraternate.]

Obviously, that’s a volcano on the right: Emi Koussi, in northern Africa. But look to the left, almost at the edge of the picture. See that faded ring? That’s Aorounga — an impact crater, some 10 – 15 km wide, formed when a chunk of cosmic debris hit the Earth about 300 million years ago! So these are two craters, one formed from processes happening deep below the Earth, and one from events from far above. Yet both can be seen at the same time, from one vantage point: orbiting our planet somewhere above the surface but beneath the rest of the Universe.

Image credit: NASA


Related posts:

A long, thin, volcanic plume from space
UPDATE: more amazing Nabro volcano images
Staring down an active volcano’s throat
Volcano followup: pix, video

CATEGORIZED UNDER: contest, NASA, Pretty pictures

Tiny lunar volcanoes

By Phil Plait | December 12, 2011 11:19 am

The Moon is packed with all sorts of interesting features that only come to light — literally, in some cases — when very high-resolution imaging is done. For example, the lunar far side has a bunch of small volcanoes, some only a few hundred meters across, like this one:

[Click to enlunenate.]

The image is about 500 meters across, so this is a hill you could climb pretty easily, even though the low Sun angle implies the slope is greater than 13° (remember, the Moon has 1/6th the Earth’s gravity so that would be a pretty easy hike). Those boulders on the top are weird; they only appear to be on one side, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in that direction that would be a source of them. There are none on the plains around it, or at the bottom of a nearby crater, either. The source must be the volcano itself, I’d wager. Note the crater at the top of the mound, too – you might think that’s the volcanic vent, but in fact it’s not centered on the dome, indicating it’s a coincidental impact crater.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
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