Don’t wake the volcanoes


The topography of volcanoes on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula is visible in this angular view from the International Space Station.

Here’s hoping a volcano doesn’t belch clouds of ash into the skies and disrupt travel plans this holiday season. As many Europeans will attest, the added chaos of cancelled flights and stranded passengers is more than enough to turn us all into Grinches.

Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula is home to 114 volcanoes that have erupted over the past 12,000 years. In October, an eruption of two volcanoes there disrupted travel. That’s not surprising: The peninsula is part of the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire” — a chain of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean marked by frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

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Astronauts aboard the International Space Station captured this image of four volcanoes on the peninsula. The Kronotsky (front center) and Kizimen (rear, center right) stratovolcanoes are distinguished by their symmetrical cones. The Kizimen volcano last erupted in 1928, while Kronotsky — one of the largest volcanoes on the peninsula — last erupted in 1923.

Schmidt Volcano, to the north (right) of Kronotsky, has the morphology of a shield volcano and is not known to have erupted since humans have been keeping records.

To the south (left) is Krasheninnikov, consisting of overlapping stratovolcanoes that formed within an earlier caldera — that is, a crater caused by a violent eruption. Krasheninnikov may have last erupted in 1550. Two summit craters are clearly visible.

Lake Kronotsky is Kamchatka’s largest lake. It formed when lava flows from Kronotsky Volcano dammed the Listvenichnaya River.

Space station astronauts are able to capture imagery of the Earth such as this with an angular, or oblique, view using handheld cameras. Most satellite-based sensors just give one perspective: straight down. The oblique view, combined with shadows cast by the terrain, provides additional perspective. The images was made by the Expedition 25 crew on Nov. 19.

Check in with Photoblog and Cosmic Log every day until Christmas for a new view of Earth as seen from outer space — and check out the links below for the previous pictures in our Advent calendar as well as three other online calendars with space themes:

* The Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar so far * Door 1 for Dec. 1: Shuttle in spotlight * Door 2 for Dec. 2: ‘Alien’ lake seen from space * Door 3 for Dec. 3: Egypt’s river of light * Door 4 for Dec. 4: Tallest building reaches for the sky * Door 5 for Dec. 5: Russia’s dazzling delta * Door 6 for Dec. 6: Space skipper vs. the world * Door 7 for Dec. 7: Pearl Harbor from the heavens * Door 8 for Dec. 8: Listening for E.T. * Door 9 for Dec. 9: Blast from the past * Door 10 for Dec. 10: Volcano caught in the act * Door 11 for Dec. 11: Chronicling climate change * Door 12 for Dec. 12: Happy St. Lucy’s Day * Door 13 for Dec. 13: Viva Las Vegas * The Big Picture at Hubble Advent calendar * Planetary Society: Solar system Advent calendar * Zooniverse Advent calendar

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John Roach is a contributing writer for Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the “like” button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following’s science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).


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