One of the largest and most destructive fires raging across California over the weekend of July 4 was the Basin Fire, threatening Big Sur, and covering the coast in a thick blanket of smoke. Astronaut Greg Chamitoff, observing the fires from 344 kilometers (215 miles) above the Earth aboard the International Space Station, was able to capture the regional view of the smoke pall. At the time this image was taken, more than 300 fires were burning in California alone. The Basin Fire was triggered by a thunderstorm, had burned more than 80,000 acres, and as of July 10, was still only partially contained.
Astronaut photograph ISS017-E-10303 was acquired July 4, 2008, at 18:03 UTC, with a Nikon D2X digital camera using an 180 mm lens as part of the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment. The image was taken by the Expedition 17 crew, and is provided by the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image in this article has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory 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 Cynthia Evans, NASA-JSC.