April 3, 2009
This website run by the University of Wisconsin at Madison has lots of interesting satellite views of the recent eruption of Mt. Redoubt in Alaska, including this one taken by the Japanese MTSAT-1R weather satellite, showing a black plume rising high into the atmosphere (see the animated version here).
Astronauts often photograph volcanoes from space (just search for “volcano” here), although Redoubt may be too far north for the International Space Station crew to have gotten a good look. Some of my favorite volcanoes-from-space photos were from the STS-68 mission, which happened to fly over Kliuchevskoi, on Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula, just as it was erupting on September 30, 1994. Jeff Wisoff, one of the astronauts on that flight, told the story in our 2002 book, Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years:
There was a volcano in Kamchatka that exploded during our STS-68 flight. When we saw it for the first time we wondered, “What is that in the distance? It looks like a huge, black thunderstorm on the horizon.” The amount of stuff in the atmosphere was so tremendous I thought it must be a weather system. It was huge, covering the whole horizon. Mike Baker, the commander, was the first to realize it was a volcano, When we got up close, sure enough, it was spewing out all this stuff. It was neat to tell the ground about it, then have them confirm, “Yeah, we just found out this thing is erupting.” It shows how much change nature can produce in a short period of time. You had this huge eruption, then by the end of the flight it had largely stopped erupting. There was still a small smoke trail, but it had re-snowed on top of the soot. In the span of ten days, it was almost white again and pristine, except you could see a crevice in the side of the mountain where it had exploded.
Here’s a sequence of photos the astronauts took as they passed overhead:
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