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Spectacular View of Etna from the International Space Station
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
International Space Station crew members are trained to observe and document dynamic events on the Earths surface, such as hurricanes, forest fires, and volcanic eruptions. Their observations provide scientists and the general public a different perspective on these events. Earlier this week, astronauts in the crew of the ISS-5 mission were able to observe Mt. Etnas spectacular eruption, and photograph the details of the eruption plume as well as smoke from fires triggered by the lava as it flowed down the 11,000-foot mountain. This image is looking obliquely to the southeast over the island of Sicily. A wider view (ISS005-E-19016) shows the ash plume curving out toward the horizon, caught first by low-level winds blowing to the southeast, and to the south toward Africa at higher altitudes. Ashfall was reported in Libya, more than 350 miles away. The lighter-colored plumes downslope and north of the summit (see detailed view, ISS005-E-19024) are produced by gas emissions from a line of vents on the mountain’s north flank. The detailed image provides a three-dimensional profile of the eruption plume.
This was one of Etnas most vigorous eruptions in years. The eruption was triggered by a series of earthquakes on October 27. These images were taken on October 30, 2002. Sicilans have learned to live with Etnas eruptions. Although schools were closed and air traffic was diverted because of the ash, no towns or villages were threatened by the lava flow.