Astronaut Photography from ISS: Unique Observations of the Earth
Part 1: Unique images of Earth not available from any other source.
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Mount Etna Eruption:

On October 27, 2002, Mount Etna (on the island of Sicily) began its most vigorous eruption in years.

International Space Station crew members are trained to observe and document dynamic events on the Earth’s surface, such as hurricanes, forest fires, and volcanic eruptions. Their observations provide scientists and the general public a different perspective on these events.

This wide view looking southeast uses an oblique look angle to show the ash plume curving out toward the horizon. At first the plume ( about 9000 m above sea level) is steered by low-level winds blowing to the southeast. At higher altitudes it is picked up and carried to the south toward Africa (on the horizon in the upper right in this picture). Ashfall was reported in Libya, more than 350 miles away.

Why is this image unique?: This oblique views provide observations of the vertical structure of the volcanic plume, as well as regional context of the ash cloud trajectory. It also demonstrates the operational flexibility of human observations: This view was acquired as the spacecraft approached Sicily. A minute later, the crew changed lenses and documented the eruption plume in detail (see next image).

Detailed view of Mt. Etna eruption >>

ISS005-E-19016, 30 October 2002, 112 mm lens
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Similar data used by: USGS, Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Network, and university research (e.g. Mich Tech, U. N. Dakota, Arizona State U.)