An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of a pair of volcanic peaks—one active and one extinct. The active Colima and extinct Nevado de Colima are both andesitic stratovolcanoes in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, a large volcanic arc that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. The Colima Volcano Complex rises above the Mexican states of Jalisco and Colima.
Recent lava flows appear as long, gray ribbons down the flanks of Colima, settling alongside some pyroclastic flows, lahars, and lava domes that have characterized the volcano’s geologic history. It is one of the most active volcanoes in Mexico, with its most recent eruption coming in 2019.
Such activity has earned the 3,820 meter (12,533 foot) peak the local nickname “Volcán Fuego,” which translates to “fire volcano.” The ongoing activity means the appearance of the volcano is ever changing. A lava dome which stood out in a 2011 satellite image of the area has since been paved over by more recent eruptions. The pyroclastic flow highlighted in the ISS photo comes from a 2015 eruption that was the largest at Colima since 1913.
Just to the north, Nevado de Colima is known more for its height than its volcanic history, rising 4,271 meters (14,015 feet) into the sky. Nevado is inactive so vegetation has had ample time to grow undisturbed on its slopes. Despite being one of the highest peaks in Mexico and having a name that generally translates to “Snowy Colima,” Nevado de Colima sometimes lacks snow cover during the dry season (December through May).
Astronaut photograph ISS064-E-16968 was acquired on December 30, 2020, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 600 millimeter lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 64 crew. The image 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 Alex Stoken, Jacobs, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.