Geologists are using radar images and photographs taken during NASA's most recent space shuttle mission to study possible new lava flows from Mount Kliuchevskoi on Russia's Kamchatka peninsula.
"The Endeavour astronauts were among the first witnesses to the eruption, which began only eight hours after the launch on Sept. 30," said Dr. Jeffrey J. Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "The crew tracked the progress of the eruption daily, providing us with the most detailed documentation of a large eruption ever obtained from orbit."
Plaut will discuss the dramatic radar imagery of the area in a presentation today to the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Seattle, Wash. Plaut is the geology experiment representative for the Spaceborne Imaging Radar C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR), the international radar system carried into orbit for 11 days by the space shuttle Endeavour. Plaut will compare the radar data to the optical photographs of the massive eruption that were taken by the astronaut crew.
The eruption of Mt. Kliuchevskoi is only one of several volcanoes being studied by the SIR-C/X-SAR team. The radar detected evidence of recent activity at Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines and the Rabaul Caldera in Papua, New Guinea. Scientists hope to use such data to assist local authorities in identifying and mitigating hazards posed by these dangerous volcanoes, Plaut said.
"Radar images also were acquired for dozens of volcanoes around the world, including 12 of the 15 volcanoes identified by the international volcanology community as deserving special study due the threats posed to large local populations," Plaut said.
SIR-C/X-SAR, launched Sept. 30, is a joint mission of the U.S., German and Italian space agencies. It is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth, a long-term, coordinated program to study the Earth's global environment, to observe environmental changes and to learn how human beings affect those changes. JPL manages the SIR-C portion of the mission for NASA's Office of Mission to Planet Earth.
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