An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of two snow-covered volcanoes in Russia’s Far East. The image is centered on Bolshaya Ipelka. Measuring 40 kilometers (25 miles) wide at its base, the volcano is considered by geologists to be the largest volcanic structure in southern Kamchatka. Bolshaya Ipelka is an older, inactive volcano, with deep valleys along its flanks that were excavated by glaciers flowing out from the summit during the ice ages of the past two million years. The summit is the most severely eroded part of the original cone; it originally had a much higher elevation than its present 1155 meters (3,785 feet).
By contrast, the much smaller Opala stratovolcano has a cone that measures 14.5 kilometers (9 miles) at the base. It is still active—last erupting about 300 years ago—and therefore shows a more classic cone shape. In this uneroded state, Opala stretches to a much greater altitude (2475 meter or 8,120 feet) than Bolshaya Ipelka. The summit is high enough that it was obscured by a small cloud on the day of this photo.
Over the years, ISS crews have photographed several active volcanoes in this tectonically active part of the world. Low sun angles often make for dramatic three dimensional shots, as do the frequent eruptions.
Astronaut photograph ISS042-E-101371 was acquired on January 6, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 500 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 42 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 M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State U., Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.
Some of the world’s most active volcanoes make up the spine of the Kamchatka Peninsula in far east Russia. Kamchatka is the northwestern edge of the Pacific “ring of fire,” where earthquakes and volcanism are caused by ongoing subduction of the Pacific oceanic plate beneath the Eurasian plate. This astronaut photograph profiles the summit area of Ksudach Volcano, also called Voniuchi Khrebet Volcano, in southern Kamchatka. White snow on the ridges in this image contrasts with the dark volcanic soils and highlights the well-developed radial drainage pattern down the slopes of the volcano.