On Sunday, November 3, 2002, Mt. Etna's ash-laden plume was imaged by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA's Terra satellite. The plume is seen blowing toward the south-southeast, over the city and airport of Catania, Sicily. The previous day, the plume was blowing toward the northwest, and posed no hazard to Catania. The current eruption of Mt. Etna, Europe's most active volcano, began on October 27. These sorts of observations from space may help civil defense authorities mitigate hazards from active eruptions. Space data may also help scientists evaluate the behavior and effects volcanic eruptions have on our global climate system.
With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region, and its high spatial resolution of 15 to 90 meters (about 50 to 300 feet), ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet.
ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched December 18, 1999, on NASA's Terra satellite. The instrument was built by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for validation and calibration of the instrument and the data products.
The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER will provide scientists in numerous disciplines with critical information for surface mapping, and monitoring of dynamic conditions and temporal change. Example applications are: monitoring glacial advances and retreats; monitoring potentially active volcanoes; identifying crop stress; determining cloud morphology and physical properties; wetlands evaluation; thermal pollution monitoring; coral reef degradation; surface temperature mapping of soils and geology; and measuring surface heat balance.
Dr. Anne Kahle at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is the U.S. science team leader; Bjorn Eng of JPL is the project manager. The Terra mission is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, a long-term research effort to understand and protect our home planet. Through the study of Earth, NASA will help to provide sound science to policy and economic decision-makers so as to better life here, while developing the technologies needed to explore the universe and search for life beyond our home planet.
Size: 50.8 by 76.5 kilometers (31.5 by 47.4 miles)
Location: 37.6 degrees North latitude, 15.1 degrees East longitude
Orientation: North at top
Image Data: ASTER bands 1, 2 and 3
Original Data Resolution: 15 meters (49.2 feet)
Date Acquired: November 3, 2002