Orbital View: Braided Clouds

Cloud vortices off Heard Island, south Indian Ocean. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of sea ice off Heard Island on Nov 2, 2015 at 5:02 AM EST (09:20 UTC). A cloud vortex- the circular pattern seen here- is produced by the flow of air in the atmosphere. Heard Island (visible in the lower right portion of the image) is located in the Indian Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Madagascar to Antarctica. The island is uninhabited by humans, although it is home to many birds and seals. Heard Island is rugged and mountainous, and is mostly covered with ice. It is also home to an active volcano, Mawson Peak. The island has been a territory of Australia since 1947. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team #nasagoddard

A photo posted by NASA Goddard (@nasagoddard) on

That caption pretty much says it all, but here are some great aerial views of a cloudless Mawson Peak shortly after a lava flow. Heard Island is considered part of a “world heritage place”—by the Australian government itself, but still:

The Australian Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) is one of the wildest places on earth—a smoking volcano under snow and glacial ice that rises above the world’s stormiest waters. HIMI is the only sub-Antarctic island group that has an intact ecosystem, to which no known species has been introduced directly by humans, and where the ongoing evolution of plants and animals occurs in a natural state.