ISS036 Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Photographic Highlights

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View larger image for ISS036-E-11050
ISS036-E-11050
Egyptian Dust Plume, Red Sea: This astronaut photograph provides a panoramic view of most of the length of the Red Sea. The northernmost end, the Gulf of Suez, is just visible at the top center of the image and is fully 1,900 kilometers (1,200 miles) in ground distance from the International Space Station (ISS). The Nile River snakes its way northward through the Sahara Desert on the left.

Much closer to the camera—but still more than 550 kilometers (340 miles) from the ISS—is a dust plume surging out over the Red Sea and reaching most of the way to Saudi Arabia. The point source of this plume is the delta of the southern Egyptian river Khor Baraka. Astronaut images have shown that this delta is a common source for dust plumes, mainly because it is a relatively large area of exposed, loose sand and clay that can be easily lofted into the air. The river also cuts a narrow valley through a high range of hills that channels the wind, making it blow faster.

This dramatic view of the Red Sea shows the generally parallel margins of the opposing coastlines. The rift, or depression, that now holds the Red Sea has been opening slowly for about 30 million years and is nearly 300 kilometers (200 miles) wide in the region of the dust plume. The depression only began filling with seawater within the past five million years. The satisfyingly good fit between the coastlines allows the viewer to easily visualize how Africa and Arabia were once a single landmass before the Red Sea rift formed.

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ISS036-E-9405
Deep in the Heart of Texas: This striking astronaut photograph taken from the International Space Station (ISS) shows the four largest cities of Texas (by population, using 2010 US Census estimates). The extent of the metropolitan areas is readily visible at night due to city and roadway lighting networks.

The largest metro area, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington (population over 6.5 million), is visible at image top center. The lighting pattern appears less distinct due to local cloud cover. Four brightly illuminated cloud tops to the northwest (image top center) indicate thunderstorm activity over neighboring Oklahoma.

Coming in a close second, with a population of approximately 6.1 million, the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metro area is located along the Gulf of Mexico coastline. To the east, near the border with Louisiana, the metropolitan area of Beaumont-Port Arthur ranks tenth (population 400,000) in Texas.

Moving inland, the San Antonio-New Braunfels metro area has the third largest population (over 2 million). A band of lighting visible to the southeast of San Antonio marks well pads associated with the Eagle Ford Formation (also known as the Eagle Ford Shale). This geologic formation is an important producer of both oil and natural gas.

The capital city of Texas is included within the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos metro area to the northeast of San Antonio. It ranks fourth in terms of population with more than 1.7 million. The greater Austin metro area is located in central Texas between the Hill Country to the west and the coastal plain to the east-southeast.

This image was taken with a relatively high viewing angle, as opposed to looking straight down from the ISS towards the Earth’s surface, as is typical for most orbital remote sensing instruments. Oblique viewing angles tend to change the apparent distance between objects. For a sense of scale, the actual distance between central Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth is approximately 367 kilometers (228 miles).

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ISS036-E-7165
Nevados de Chillan: This photograph by an astronaut on the International Space Station highlights the Nevados de Chillán, a large volcanic area near the Chile-Argentina border. In this image, north is to the lower right.

Like other historically active volcanoes in the central Andes, the Nevados de Chillán were created by upwelling magma generated by eastward subduction, as the dense oceanic crust of the Pacific basin dove beneath the less dense continental crust of South America. The rising magmas associated with this type of tectonic environment frequently erupt explosively, forming widespread ash and ignimbrite layers. They can also produce less explosive eruptions, with voluminous lava flows that layer together with explosively erupted deposits to build the classic cone-shaped edifice of a stratovolcano.

The Nevados de Chillán includes three distinct volcanic structures built within three overlapping calderas. The snow-capped volcanic complex sits within the glaciated terrain of the central Andes. Glacial valleys are visible at image upper left, upper right, and lower right. The northwestern end of the chain is occupied by the 3,212 meter (10,538 foot) high Cerro Blanco, also known as Volcán Nevado. The 3,089 meter (10,134 foot) high Volcán Viejo (also known as Volcán Chillan) sits at the southeastern end; this volcano was active during the 17th to 19th centuries. A group of lava domes known as Volcán Nuevo formed to the northwest of Volcán Viejo between 1906 and 1945, followed by an even younger dome complex, Volcán Arrau, that formed between 1973 and 1986 (Volcán Arrau is not shown in the image).

The last reported volcanic activity at Nevados de Chillán took place in 2009, according to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Network. Volcanic activity reports are currently available (in Spanish) from the Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería of Chile.

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ISS036-E-5647
Steam Plume at Gaua Volcano: Just 20 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter, Gaua Island is actually the exposed upper cone and summit of a stratovolcano that is 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) high and 40 kilometers (25 miles) in diameter. Most of the volcano is submerged beneath the Pacific Ocean. Also known as Santa Maria Island, Gaua is part of the Vanuatu Archipelago, a group of volcanic islands in the South Pacific Ocean governed by the Republic of Vanuatu.

According to the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program, the most recent report of eruption activity at Gaua was a steam plume observed on April 29, 2013. This photograph records subsequent steam emissions observed on May 31, 2013, by an astronaut on the International Space Station. The steam plume extends east-southeast from its likely source at Mount Gharat (also spelled Garat or Garet), a historically active cinder cone located along the southwest flank of a 6 by 9 kilometer (4 by 6 mile) collapsed summit caldera. Gaua is one of several volcanoes monitored by the Vanuatu Geohazards Observatory.

The dark blue-green waters of Lake Letas, formed within the caldera, are visible at image center. The majority of Santa Maria Island is covered in green vegetation, with areas directly west and south of Mount Gharat covered with grey ash deposits. Patchy cloud cover is visible to the west and south, but is easily distinguished from the steam plume by its linear nature and brighter tone.

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ISS036-E-3918
Little Rock, Arkansas: The capital city of Arkansas, Little Rock, occupies a position near the geographic center of the state. It sits between the eroded remnants of the Ouachita Mountains to the west, the Mississippi River Alluvial Plain to the east, and the West Gulf Coastal Plain to the south. This photograph, taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station, highlights the Little Rock metropolitan area and surrounding region. Urban and suburban areas appear light to dark gray, while large facilities and buildings (commercial/industrial, public arenas, etc.) stand out due to expansive light-colored roofs.

The Arkansas River separates Little Rock on the south bank from North Little Rock on the north bank. Frequent changes in the position of the river channel through geologic time are recorded as numerous current and former oxbow lakes visible within extensive agricultural fields. Oxbow lakes are formed on river floodplains when wide meander bends are “pinched off” due to the river cutting a shorter channel across the bend. The process forms a lake, which typically becomes filled in with sediment over time; vegetation outlines a distinctive curved pattern visible from above.

The city of Little Rock takes its name from a small outcrop located on the south bank of the Arkansas River. This outcrop served as a landmark for navigating the river during the city’s early development as a center of regional commerce—a role the city still enjoys today.

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ISS036-E-2105
Pavlof Volcano, Alaska Peninsula: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) photographed this striking view of Pavlof Volcano on May 18, 2013. The oblique perspective from the ISS reveals the three dimensional structure of the ash plume, which is often obscured by the top-down view of most remote sensing satellites. Situated in the Aleutian Arc about 625 miles (1,000 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage, Pavlof began erupting on May 13, 2013. The volcano jetted lava into the air and spewed an ash cloud 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) high. When photograph ISS036-E-2105 was taken, the space station was about 475 miles south-southeast of the volcano (49.1° North latitude, 157.4° West longitude). The volcanic plume extended southeastward over the North Pacific Ocean.

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ISS036-E-2464
Pavlof Volcano, Alaska Peninsula: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) photographed this striking view of Pavlof Volcano on May 18, 2013. The oblique perspective from the ISS reveals the three dimensional structure of the ash plume, which is often obscured by the top-down view of most remote sensing satellites. Situated in the Aleutian Arc about 625 miles (1,000 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage, Pavlof began erupting on May 13, 2013. The volcano jetted lava into the air and spewed an ash cloud 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) high. When photograph ISS036-E-2105 was taken, the space station was about 475 miles south-southeast of the volcano (49.1° North latitude, 157.4° West longitude). The volcanic plume extended southeastward over the North Pacific Ocean.

View larger image for ISS036-E-2780
ISS036-E-2780
Pavlof Volcano, Alaska Peninsula: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) photographed this striking view of Pavlof Volcano on May 18, 2013. The oblique perspective from the ISS reveals the three dimensional structure of the ash plume, which is often obscured by the top-down view of most remote sensing satellites. Situated in the Aleutian Arc about 625 miles (1,000 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage, Pavlof began erupting on May 13, 2013. The volcano jetted lava into the air and spewed an ash cloud 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) high. When photograph ISS036-E-2105 was taken, the space station was about 475 miles south-southeast of the volcano (49.1° North latitude, 157.4° West longitude). The volcanic plume extended southeastward over the North Pacific Ocean.

View larger image for ISS036-E-2458
ISS036-E-2458
Tarut Bay, Saudi Arabia: Tarut Bay (also spelled Tarout or Tarot) is located along the coastline of the Arabian Gulf (also known as the Persian Gulf). The bay surrounds one of the largest islands in the Arabian Gulf—Tarut—which has an area of approximately 70 square kilometers (27 square miles). Archeological evidence suggests that the island has been continuously inhabited for more than 5,000 years. Today, the island hosts both suburban development and fishing industries. It is linked to the mainland city of Qatif to the west by two causeways that cross a narrow channel of the bay. The Ras Tanura peninsula, which forms the northern boundary of Tarut Bay, is occupied by residential compounds and industrial facilities owned by Saudi Aramco, one of the largest and most valuable oil companies in the world. In addition to the facilities along the natural shorelines and islands of the bay, numerous drill rigs and docking facilities have been constructed to support the activities of the petroleum industry. One striking example is the King Abdulaziz Seaport complex, located to the south of Tarut Bay in the Arabian Gulf. The port complex is essentially a small, self-supporting city with housing for employees, medical and support services, and water treatment plants. Green to turquoise ribbon-like features in the waters of Tarut Bay are likely a combination of phytoplankton and sediments moved by nearshore currents. Green areas near the city of Qatif include both farms and numerous fruit trees—such as date palms—which hearken back to the region’s history as an oasis.

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