When viewing conditions are favorable, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) can take unusual and striking images of the Earth. This photograph provides a view of an eruption plume emanating from Kliuchevskoi, one of the many active volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The nadir views—looking straight down—acquired by most satellites tend to flatten the landscape and reduce our sense of three-dimensional topography. In contrast, this photo was taken from the ISS with an oblique viewing angle that gives a strong sense of three dimensions, which are also accentuated by the shadows cast by the volcanic peaks. The result is a view similar to what you might see from a low-altitude airplane. The image was taken when the ISS was located over a ground position more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) to the southwest.
The plume—likely a combination of steam, volcanic gases, and ash—stretched to the east-southeast due to prevailing winds. The dark region to the north-northwest is likely a product of shadows and of 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 (at image center).
Astronaut photograph ISS038-E-5515 was acquired on November 16, 2013, with a Nikon D3X digital camera using a 1200 millimeter 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 38 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and 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, Jacobs at NASA-JSC.