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Earth from Space

Mount Etna, Italy

IMAGE: Mt. Etna, Italy

High-resolution image (468 Kb)

On Oct. 30, 2002, the International Space Station's Expedition Five crew was able to observe Mount Etna's spectacular eruption and photograph the details of the eruption plume and smoke from fires triggered by the lava as it flowed down the 3,350-meter (11,000-foot) mountain. This was one of Etna's most vigorous eruptions in years. The eruption was triggered by a series of earthquakes on Oct. 27. Although schools were closed and air traffic was diverted because of the ash, no towns or villages were threatened by the lava flow. Both of these images are looking obliquely to the southeast over the island of Sicily.

The wide view -- above -- 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 -- pictured in the detailed view below -- are produced by forest fires set by lava flowing into the pine forests on the slope of the mountain. The detailed image provides a more three-dimensional profile of the eruption plume.

IMAGE: Mt. Etna, Italy

High-resolution image (184 Kb)

Astronaut photographs ISS005-E-19016 and ISS005-E-19024 were provided by the Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory at Johnson Space Center. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA-JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

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Curator: Kim Dismukes
Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty

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Updated: 01/23/2003