Tourist gets dramatic volcano plume snapshot

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April 2 2010 7:30 AM

Tourist gets dramatic volcano plume snapshot

soufriere_collapseA little while back I posted a dramatic satellite image of the Soufrière Hills volcano on Montserrat erupting (thumbnail on the right; click to get the embiggened shot).

Well, as from above, so it is from the side as well. Canadian tourist Mary Jo Penkala was on a plane near Montserrat at the time, and after the pilot made an announcement for passengers to look out the port window, she snapped this:

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montserrat_volcano

Wow! I've seen a lot of amazing things out my airplane window, but never anything close to this. Ms. Penkala is enjoying a bit of well-deserved notoriety for the picture. It's amazing in and of itself, but I love how we now can get so many views of volcanic plumes: from below, the side, and even from space. These natural disasters cause a huge amount of damage and grief, of course, but the good news is that with enough study we can learn more about them, how to predict them, and when is the best time to get people out of any potentially dangerous regions.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!