Icy swirls around a patient volcano

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Feb. 23 2011 7:00 AM

Icy swirls around a patient volcano

Just east of Russia and north of Japan lies a long series of island volcanoes called the Kuril chain. Over 50 volcanoes form this archipelago, which stretches for well over 1300 km (800 miles) in the western Pacific ocean. At the southern end is the bizarrely-shaped rectangle of Ostrov Shikotan, and in the winter icy waters swirl and flow around the snow-covered terrain:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

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

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Breathtaking, isn't it? There are two extinct volcanoes on the island (it's still seismically active though) and, amazingly, two settlements as well. Of course, this picture, taken in February from NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite, paints a very white and chilly picture. Satellite imagery in warmer times shows it to be much greener. There is some dispute over who owns the island; it's part of Russia but the Japanese claim it as well.

I suspect in the very long run, it doesn't matter. The Earth owns this parcel of land. The geology indicates it's been battered by eons of tsunamis and earthquakes. Humans may thrust out their chests and thump them, but the vast and mighty forces of a entire planet have squatting rights here, I think.




I love these satellite views of volcanoes from space, and I've collected quite a few into a gallery slideshow (I almost have enough to create a whole new set now, too). Click the thumbnail picture to get a bigger picture and more information, and scroll through the gallery using the left and right arrows.]


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