When viewing conditions are favorable, astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) can take unusual and striking images of the Earth. This astronaut photograph provides a view of an eruption plume emanating from Kliuchevskoi Volcano (also spelled Klyuchevskaya), one of the many active volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Nadir views—looking “straight down”—that are typical of orbital satellite imagery tend to flatten the appearance of the landscape by reducing the sense of three dimensions of the topography.
In contrast, this image was taken from the ISS with a very oblique viewing angle that gives a strong sense of three dimensions, which is accentuated by the shadows cast by the volcanic peaks. This resulted in a view similar to what a person might see from a low-altitude airplane. The image was taken when the ISS was located over a ground position more than 1500 km to the southwest.
The plume—likely a combination of steam, volcanic gases, and ash—is extended to the east-southeast by prevailing winds; the dark region to the north-northwest of the plume is likely a product of both shadow and ash settling out. Several other volcanoes are visible in the image, including Ushkovsky, Tolbachik, Zimina, and Udina. To the south-southwest of Kliuchevskoi lies Bezymianny Volcano which appears to be emitting a small steam plume (visible at image center).
Astronaut photograph ISS038-E-5515 was acquired on November 16, 2013 with a Nikon D3X digital camera using a 1200 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 38 crew. The image in this article has been enhanced to improve contrast. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, Jacobs at NASA-JSC.
- ISS - Digital Camera