The area known as the Afar Triangle is located at the northern end of the East Africa Rift, where it approaches the southeastern end of the Red Sea and the southwestern end of the Gulf of Aden. The East African Rift, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden are all zones where Earth's crust is pulling apart in a process known as crustal spreading. Their three-way meeting is known as a triple junction, and their spreading creates a triangular topographic depression for which the area was named.
Not surprisingly, the topographic effects of crustal spreading are more dramatic in the Afar Triangle than anywhere else upon Earth's landmasses. The spreading is primarily evident as patterns of numerous tension cracks. But some of these cracks provide conduits for magma to rise to the surface to form volcanoes.
Shown here are a few of the volcanoes of the Afar Triangle. The larger two are Nabro Volcano (upper right, in Eritrea) and Mallahle Volcano (lower left, in Ethiopia). Nabro Volcano shows clear evidence of multiple episodes of activity that resulted in a crater in a crater in a crater. Many volcanoes in this area are active, including one nearby that last erupted in 1990.
This image was created directly from an SRTM elevation model. A shade image was derived by computing topographic slope in the north-south direction. Northern slopes appear bright and southern slopes appear dark. The shade image was then combined with a color coding of topographic height, with green at the lower elevations, rising through yellow, orange, and red, up to purple at the highest elevations.
Elevation data used in this image was acquired by the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, launched on February 11, 2000. SRTM used the same radar instrument that comprised the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) that flew twice on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1994. SRTM was designed to collect three-dimensional measurements of the Earth's surface. To collect the 3-D data, engineers added a 60-meter-long (200-foot) mast, installed additional C-band and X-band antennas, and improved tracking and navigation devices. The mission is a cooperative project between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and the German and Italian space agencies. It is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, for NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, Washington, DC.
Size: 35.2 kilometers (21.8 miles) by 22.5 kilometers (14.0 miles)
Location: 13.3 degrees North latitude, 41.7 degrees East longitude
Orientation: North toward the top
Image Data: Shaded and colored SRTM elevation model
Date Acquired: February 2000