Astronauts Snag Dramatic Photographs of Alaska's Erupting Volcano

Images of volcanoes from space are often kind of disappointing. These, we assure you, are not.

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Astronauts living on board the International Space Station managed to get these dramatic pictures of the Pavlof Volcano as it erupted over the weekend. The volcano began acting up last Monday, the 13th, its first eruption since 2007.

Images of volcanoes erupting from space are often a lot less interesting than they sound (volcanoes?! from space?! sign me up!). Satellites typically capture the Earth with a straight-down perspective, flattening the volcano's height and its rising ashy plume. As a result, eruptions tend to just look like a little smudge of gray trailing away from the Earth. For example, check out this image taken by NASA's Terra satellite on May 14th of this same volcano:

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But astronauts have a bit more flexibility, and the Space Station provides them with a fast-moving platform from which they can capture an event from all different angles. According to NASA, the top image was taken from about 475 miles south-southeast of the volcano (map at right), giving the astronauts a more lateral view of the event. Two more images, also from astronauts on the ISS, are below. They were taken with a Nikon D3S digital camera equipped with an 800, 400, and 50 millimeter lens, respectively

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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