Friday, February 6, 2009


Written Inc. hosts thematic photography each week, and the new theme is “Down.” So where do you find the best DOWN pictures?

You’re on a blog about space science, so this isn’t a trick question. This is my favorite picture taken from the International Space Station. I’ve had this amazing shot of ash-plume activity from the Cleveland Volcano (Chuginadak Island, Alaska) among my screen-saver pictures for a couple years now, but I never tire of it.

International Space Station

It always makes me think about the invention of photography, the invention of flight, and how those two phenomena put together have offered the eyes of humans many views of the world that populations from previous centuries could not possibly have imagined!

I’ve always gotten a thrill from aerial photography, and I’ve also buzzed two calderas in helicopters. Eruptive activity is tremendously exciting, but from space, the wide view is too powerful for words. Especially considering this stratovolcano, one of the most active in the Aleutians, is over a mile high. The nearby observatory estimated the ash cloud height at nearly 400 miles! But from orbit, it looks no more dangerous than a smoldering firecracker.

Alas, I cannot claim credit as the photographer -- don't I wish. That honor belongs to NASA Flight Engineer Jeff Williams, who captured this image during ISS Expedition 13.

I do have one interesting “Down” picture, however. Gotta have something original if I want to link back to Carmi! I took this from a parasail while on vacation in the Bahamas, and I guess it’s closest I’ll ever get to a tethered space walk. ;)