At a Glance: Observing Volcanic Activity from Space

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With their perspective from above, satellites have a unique view of changes to Earth's surface and atmosphere. 

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory.

All images, illustrations, and videos courtesy of NASA except:
·       Aerial photo of Mt. Erebus: Jeanie Mackinder
·       Ground-based photo of Mt. Erebus: Dr. Eric Christian / NASA
·       Sea creature illustration copyright The National Library of Israel, Shapell Family Digitization Project _and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Department of Geography – Historic Cities Research Project
·       Ground-based photos of Eyjafjallajökull: David Karnå
·       Eyjafjallajökull video footage: Ágúst Guðbjörnsson /
·       EO-1 satellite illustration: ATK
·       Fimmvörðuháls fissure photo: Henrik Thorburn
·       Simulation of ash spreading over Europe: Nina Kristiansen, Sabine Eckhardt, NILU
·       Eyjafjallajökull panorama: Henrik Thorburn
·       Mount St. Helens aerial photo: USGS
Music courtesy of Associated Production Music
Written by Tracy Vogel
Designed by Marc Lussier

The Earth spins below stars and galaxies.
Two globes of the Earth labeled SURFACE MAP and ATMOSPHERE MAP. The surface map globe has gray for oceans and green and beige for land. The atmosphere map has white land and blue oceans with swooshes of violet in the northern hemisphere.
Text, With their perspective from above, satellites have a unique view of changes to Earth's surface and atmosphere.
A volcano spews lava into the air.
Text, When Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted, satellites were able to track the spread of ash particles through the atmosphere in different ways.
Side-by-side pictures of the ash plume. The left side is blue with a gray streak of ash. The right side is blue with a red, orange, yellow, and green streak of ash.
Text, In the satellite photograph on the left, we see Eyjafjallajokull's ash plume from space as it appears to the human eye. This shows the distance ash had spread across the Atlantic Ocean.
The satellite image on the right shows how high the volcanic ash traveled into the atmosphere. Red indicates ash reaching nearly four miles into the air.
The majority of the plume is red.