Popocatépetl, or Popo, the active volcano located about 70 km southeast of Mexico City, sends a plume south on January 23, 2001. The astronaut crew on the International Space Station Alpha observed and recorded this image as they orbited to the northeast of the volcano. Popo has been frequently active for six years. On this day, the eruption plume reportedly rose to more than 9 km above sea level [for reference, Popos summit elevation is 5426 m (17,800 feet)]. Note the smaller ash plume below the main plume (arrow). The perspective from the ISS allowed the astronauts this unique 3 dimensional view.
Popo is situated between two large population centers: Mexico City (more than 18 million people, and just off the image to the right) and Puebla (about 1.2 million people). The regions dense population provides the potential for extreme impacts from volcanic hazards. Recent eruptions have been frequent, and have resulted in evacuations around the mountain.
The image ISS01-ESC-5316 is provided and archived by the Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. Additional images taken by astronauts can be viewed at NASA-JSCs Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth at http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/