Weather Blog

A cloud formation that will blow your socks off

A cloud formation that will blow your socks off
Astronaut photograph ISS020-E-9048 was acquired on June 12, 2009, with a Nikon D2XS digital camera fitted with a 400 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 20 crew. (NASA Photo)
This has to go into one of the Top 5 most interesting cloud photographs I've seen.

The photograph shows the early eruption stages of the Sarychev Volcano in the Kuril Islands (northeast of Japan) on June 12, 2009.

It might look like a satellite photo, but believe it or not, it was taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station. (Talk about a great view!)

But for me, the icing on the cake is the cloud on the top -- a feature you rarely see from the ground. It's a pileus cloud, and NASA says it was likely caused by "rapid rising and cooling of the air mass above the ash column."

There's plenty of other amazing atmospheric and meteorological events going on in this photo-- such as the ring of clearing around the volcano, likely caused by the eruption.

Read more about this photograph and the eruption (and find a higher resolution version of the photo) at

Update: The Astronomy Picture of the Day Web site now has another version of this photo to be used with 3-D glasses.

Update 2: -- NASA has now released some video from the ISS: Here it is in Quicktime Format

(Special thanks to UW Research Meteorologist Mark Albright for pointing the original photo out.)