This panoramic view of east-central Texas on September 6, 2011, highlights numerous smoke plumes caused by wildfires burning across the state. The image was taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who used a short focal-length lens (12 mm) to capture a wide field of view. Smoke plumes are clearly visible to the east of Austin; to the north of Houston; to the northwest of Lake Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend Reservoir; and to the west of Shreveport, Louisiana. Diffuse smoke is moving offshore into the Gulf of Mexico at image bottom. Part of an ISS photovoltaic radiator panel is visible at image top center.
Record-setting drought conditions have affected much of Texas since early 2011, drying out both forest and grassland and providing ample fuel for wildfires. Relatively high winds and low humidity levels have also contributed to the rapid spread and expansion of fires. According to a report dated September 7, 2011, the Texas Forest Service had responded to 172 fires affecting an area of 546.53 square kilometers (135,051 acres) over the preceding seven days. Fires near Bastrop (to the east of Austin) had destroyed 785 homes as of September 7, 2011.
Astronaut photograph ISS028-E-37978 was acquired on September 6, 2011, with a Nikon 2Xs digital camera using an effective 12 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 28 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. 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 William L. Stefanov, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC.