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Stunning Sarychev Peak picture from the NASA Earth Observatory 19 June 2009

Posted by admin in NASA Earth Observatory, Russia, Sarychev Peak, volcano images.
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Sarychev Peak eruption, Kuril Islands, 12 June 2009 (ISS astronaut photograph/NASA Earth Observatory)

The people at the NASA Earth Observatory have been doing a wonderful job of covering the current eruption at Sarychev Peak in the Kuril Islands, but they have really excelled themselves with their latest image: this stunning astronaut photograph of the volcano taken from the International Space Station on 12 June 2009, at an early stage of this eruption. There’s so much of interest to talk about here: the dark ashy plume punching upwards through the atmosphere almost vertically (little shearing wind at this stage), the pileus or cap of white cloud atop the plume, the pyroclastic flows ringing the volcano’s peak, and the neat circle in the surrounding cloud that has been the focus of much discussion among commenters over at Eruptions. Mostly, though, one just wants to sit back and look at this picture and go ‘WOW’.

Here’s a detail taken from the large version of the image. The light-coloured pyroclastic flow descending the volcano’s flanks towards the bottom of the image is an absolute beauty:

Sarychev Peak eruption, Kuril Islands, 12 June 2009 (ISS astronaut photograph/NASA Earth Observatory)

The original (un-rotated and un-cropped) image can be found at the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of the Earth.

NASA Earth Observatory: Sarychev Peak eruption, Kuril Islands (18 June 2009)

[Date corrected to 12 June – got so excited over the image, I’d put July. Thanks, Martin!]

UPDATE: The image above is just one of thirty pictures of the eruption taken from the International Space Station. Boris Behncke has submitted a very helpful comment explaining how to get hold of all of them via the Gateway to Astronaut Photography: check out his comment below for the instructions.

FURTHER UPDATE (25 June 2009): This dramatic image has achieved very wide coverage across the media since the NASA Earth Observatory featured it, and the ‘circle in the clouds’ around the eruption column in particular has attracted a lot of comment and debate. At the original Earth Observatory page for the image an editorial comment has been added summarizing the different interpretations of this phenomenon (scroll down to ‘Editor’s note’) without coming down in favour of any particular explanation. Here at The Volcanism Blog we’ll have more to say about this image tomorrow next week (been very busy, sorry).

For all our Sarychev Peak coverage: Sarychev Peak « The Volcanism Blog.

Global Volcanism Program: Sarychev Peak – summary information for Sarychev Peak (0900-24=)
Sakhalin Volcanic Eruption Response Team (SVERT) – organization monitoring Kuril volcanoes
SVERT status reports – current and archived alerts and status reports

The Volcanism Blog


1. Boris Behncke - 19 June 2009

This photograph is only one in a series of about 30 shot by the ISS astronauts of the Sarychev eruption. To see them all, you have to go to the search page of “The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth”


then choose the mission, which is at the very top of the pull-down menu (ISS020 05/20/2009 to present), then choose “Roll E” and in the “frames” windows, give the values “9022” in the upper window and “9052” in the lower one. This gives you the whole sequence of photographs taken from the ISS on 12 June …


2. volcanism - 19 June 2009

Many thanks, Boris! I’ve added an update to the post, linking to your instructions.

3. Colby Phillips - 19 June 2009

Great photos and links, thanks for posting. Having visited Matua Island twice in the last four years, I can only imagine what it is like on the ground. Matua was also hit by the tsunami generated by the Nov. 2006 magnitude 8.2 earthquake that occured in the Kuril Trench.

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