While most satellites only offer bird's-eye view photographs of the sky, NASA's CALIPSO satellite records a vertical profile of the atmosphere, giving pilots and advisory centers the ability to more accurately track volcanic ash. The ash was mostly floating somewhere between four and six kilometers high on May 16, the date CALIPSO recorded the data depicted above.
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Niraj Chokshi is a former staff editor at TheAtlantic.com, where he wrote about technology. He is currently freelancing and can be reached through his personal website, NirajC.com.