detailed astronaut photograph of the Chilean cities of Concepción and
Hualpén was acquired from the International Space Station approximately
seven hours after a magnitude 8.8 earthquake
occurred offshore 115 kilometers (71 miles) to the north-northeast.
Much of the Chilean coastline is located above the boundary between the
converging Nazca and South American tectonic plates. This type of plate
boundary is known as a subduction zone.
Such zones frequently experience moderate to strong earthquakes as one
tectonic plate overrides the other. The largest earthquake worldwide
during the past 200 years (magnitude 9.5 in May 1960) had a source
region approximately 230 kilometers (140 miles) south of the February
While the image is not detailed enough to see damage to individual
buildings or roadways, some indicators of earthquake damage are
visible, especially in the large version
of the image. A dark smoke plume is visible at image lower left near an
oil refinery in Hualpén. At image lower right, parts of the road bed of
a single-lane bridge over the Río Biobío appear to have collapsed. A
smaller, white smoke plume is visible at image right near the
Universidad de Concepción. Smoke, probably related to the earthquake,
was observed over Santiago in images acquired by the Moderate
Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite less
than one hour after this astronaut photograph was taken.
Astronaut photograph ISS022-E-74881
was acquired on February 27, 2010, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera
fitted with an 800mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth
Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory,
Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 22 crew. The image in this article has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. 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, NASA-JSC.