This is a radar image of a little known volcano in northern Colombia. The image was acquired on orbit 80 of space shuttle Endeavour on April 14, 1994, by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR). The volcano near the center of the image is located at 5.6 degrees north latitude, 75.0 degrees west longitude, about 100 kilometers (65 miles) southeast of Medellin, Colombia. The conspicuous dark spot is a lake at the bottom of an approximately 3-kilometer-wide (1.9-mile) volcanic collapse depression or caldera. A cone-shaped peak on the bottom left (northeast rim) of the caldera appears to have been the source for a flow of material into the caldera.
This is the northern-most known volcano in South America and because of its youthful appearance, should be considered dormant rather than extinct. The volcano's existence confirms a fracture zone proposed in 1985 as the northern boundary of volcanism in the Andes. The SIR-C/X-SAR image reveals another, older caldera further south in Colombia, along another proposed fracture zone. Although relatively conspicuous, these volcanoes have escaped widespread recognition because of frequent cloud cover that hinders remote sensing imaging in visible wavelengths.
Four separate volcanoes in the Northern Andes nations of Colombia and Ecuador have been active during the last 10 years, killing more than 25,000 people, including scientists who were monitoring the volcanic activity. Detection and monitoring of volcanoes from space provides a safe way to investigate volcanism. The recognition of previously unknown volcanoes is important for hazard evaluations because a number of major eruptions this century have occurred at mountains that were not previously recognized as volcanoes.
Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C and X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. The radars illuminate Earth with microwaves allowing detailed observations at any time, regardless of weather or sunlight conditions. SIR-C/X-SAR uses three microwave wavelengths: L-band (24 cm), C-band (6 cm) and X-band (3 cm). The multi-frequency data will be used by the international scientific community to better understand the global environment and how it is changing. The SIR-C/X-SAR data, complemented by aircraft and ground studies, will give scientists clearer insights into those environmental changes which are caused by nature and those changes which are induced by human activity.
SIR-C was developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. X-SAR was developed by the Dornier and Alenia Spazio companies for the German space agency, Deutsche Agentur fuer Raumfahrtange-legenheiten (DARA), and the Italian space agency, Agenzia SpazialeItaliana (ASI), with the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fuer Luft und Raumfahrt e.v.(DLR), the major partner in science,operations, and data processing of X-SAR.