This spaceborne radar image shows the Pinacate Volcanic Field in the state of Sonora, Mexico, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of Yuma, Arizona. The United States/Mexico border runs across the upper right corner of the image. More than 300 volcanic vents occur in the Pinacate field, including cinder cones that experienced small eruptions as recently as 1934. The larger circular craters seen in the image are a type of volcano known as a "maar," which erupts violently when rising magma encounters groundwater, producing highly pressurized steam that powers explosive eruptions. The highest elevations in the volcanic field, about 1200 meters (4000 feet), occur in the "shield volcano" structure shown in bright white, occupying most of the left half of the image. Numerous cinder cones dot the flanks of the shield. The yellow patches to the right of center are newer, rough-textured lava flows that strongly reflect the long wavelength radar signals. Along the left edge of the image are sand dunes of the Gran Desierto. The dark areas are smooth sand and the brighter brown and purple areas have vegetation on the surface. Radar data provide a unique means to study the different types of lava flows and wind-blown sands.
This image was acquired by Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) onboard the space shuttle Endeavour on April 18, 1994. The image is 57 kilometers by 48 kilometers (35 miles by 30 miles) and is centered at 31.7 degrees north latitude, 113.4 degrees West longitude. North is toward the upper right. The colors are assigned to different radar frequencies and polarizations of the radar as follows: red is L-band, horizontally transmitted and received; green is L-band, horizontally transmitted, vertically received; and blue is C-band, horizontally transmitted, vertically received. SIR-C/X-SAR, a joint mission of the German, Italian, and United States space agencies, is part of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth.