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Photographing the Earth from the International Space Station

Astronaut Photography of Earth - Display Record

ISS020-E-9048

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File NameFile Size (bytes)WidthHeightAnnotatedCroppedPurposeComments
View ISS020-E-9048.JPG 57913640437 No No
View ISS020-E-9048.JPG 164241540410 Yes Yes NASA's Earth Observatory web site
View ISS020-E-9048.JPG 4633351000759 No Yes NASA's Earth Observatory web site
View ISS020-E-9048.JPG 78706342882929 No No

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Electronic Image Data

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Identification

Mission: ISS020 Roll: E Frame: 9048 Mission ID on the Film or image: ISS020
Country or Geographic Name: RUSSIAN FEDERATION
Features: MATUA ISLAND, VOLCANIC PLUME, ASH CLOUD
Center Point: Latitude: 48.1 Longitude: 153.2 (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)

Stereo: (Yes indicates there is an adjacent picture of the same area)
ONC Map ID: JNC Map ID:

Camera

Camera Tilt: High Oblique
Camera Focal Length: 400mm
Camera: N2: Nikon D2Xs
Film: 4288E : 4288 x 2848 pixel CMOS sensor, RGBG imager color filter.

Quality

Film Exposure:
Percentage of Cloud Cover: 100 (76-100)

Nadir

GMT Date: 20090612 (YYYYMMDD) GMT Time: 221614 (HHMMSS)
Nadir Point Latitude: 48.8, Longitude: 157.5 (Negative numbers indicate south for latitude and west for longitude)

Nadir to Photo Center Direction: West
Sun Azimuth: 106 (Clockwise angle in degrees from north to the sun measured at the nadir point)
Spacecraft Altitude: 182 nautical miles (337 km)
Sun Elevation Angle: 44 (Angle in degrees between the horizon and the sun, measured at the nadir point)
Orbit Number: 528

Captions

Sarychev Peak Eruption, Kuril Islands

A fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station allowed the astronauts this striking view of Sarychev Volcano (Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. Sarychev Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Island chain, and it is located on the northwestern end of Matua Island. Prior to June 12, the last explosive eruption occurred in 1989, with eruptions in 1986, 1976, 1954, and 1946 also producing lava flows. Ash from the multi-day eruption has been detected 2,407 kilometers east-southeast and 926 kilometers west-northwest of the volcano, and commercial airline flights are being diverted away from the region to minimize the danger of engine failures from ash intake.

This detailed astronaut photograph is exciting to volcanologists because it captures several phenomena that occur during the earliest stages of an explosive volcanic eruption. The main column is one of a series of plumes that rose above Matua Island on June 12. The plume appears to be a combination of brown ash and white steam. The vigorously rising plume gives the steam a bubble-like appearance.

In contrast, the smooth white cloud on top may be water condensation that resulted from rapid rising and cooling of the air mass above the ash column. This cloud, which meteorologists call a pileus cloud, is probably a transient feature: the eruption plume is starting to punch through. The structure also indicates that little to no shearing wind was present at the time to disrupt the plume. (Satellite images acquired 2-3 days after the start of activity illustrate the effect of shearing winds on the spread of the ash plumes across the Pacific Ocean.)

By contrast, a cloud of denser, gray ash - probably a pyroclastic flow - appears to be hugging the ground, descending from the volcano summit. The rising eruption plume casts a shadow to the northwest of the island. Brown ash at a lower altitude of the atmosphere spreads out above the ground at image lower left. Low-level stratus clouds approach Matua Island from the east, wrapping around the lower slopes of the volcano. Only about 1.5 kilometers of the coastline of Matua Island are visible beneath the clouds and ash.

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