Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands float in the Pacific Ocean about 900 kilometers west of Ecuador, and are famous as being the home of 13 species of finch that Darwin studied while on his voyage aboard the Beagle and subsequently wrote about in his The Voyage of the Beagle (which later culminated in his famous and controversial Origin of Species, published in 1859). Before Darwin, these islands were also a popular hideout for pirates from the end of the 16th century into the 18th, where they could find abundant fresh water and meat. For almost a hundred years, from 1793 to 1870, visitors to the Galapagos came searching for whale-blubber oil, which brought the tortoise, fur seals, and sperm whales to near extinction. Finally, in 1978, the islands were declared a Unesco World Heritage site. The Galapagos Islands are a group of 13 major islands, 8 smaller islands, and 40 islets. The major islands shown are (clockwise from top center): Pinta, Marchena, San Cristobal, Espanola, Santa Maria, Isabela, Fernandina, and (in the center) Santiago (top), Baltra (middle), and Santa Cruz (bottom). Not shown are Darwin and Wolf in the upper left corner, and Genovesa (east of Marchena). This true-color Terra MODIS image was acquired on April 16, 2003.
Source: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

Satellite Image, Photo of Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador

A family of dormant volcanoes dominates the landscape in this radar image of the Andes Mountains in northern Ecuador. The city of Otavalo, shown in pink, and Lake Otavalo lie within the triangle formed by three volcanoes in the upper part of the image. These volcanoes are, clockwise from upper left, Mojanda, Imabura and Cusin. A lake partially fills the summit crater of Mojanda and a group of lava domes can be seen on the north flank. Geologists believe the most recent eruption of Mojanda was about 3,400 years ago. Much more recent activity has occurred at Cayambe, the large volcano at the bottom of the image. Massive mudflow deposits can be seen filling the valleys on the east (right) side of Cayambe. Cayambe last erupted about 600 years ago. Geologists are using radar to study volcanoes in the Andes to determine the history of eruptions and to identify potential threats the volcanoes pose to local communities. This image was acquired by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) aboard the space shuttle Endeavour on April 14, 1994. The image is centered at 0.1 degrees north latitude, 78.1 degrees west longitude. The area shown is approximately 50 km by 50 km (31 miles by 31 miles). North is toward the upper right. Colors are assigned to different frequencies and polarizations of the radar as follows: red is L-band horizontally transmitted, vertically received; green is L- band horizontally transmitted, vertically received; and blue is C-band horizontally transmitted, horizontally 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.
Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration - NASA/JPL/NIMA

Satellite Image, Photo of Mojanda, Imabura and Cusin Volcanoes, Ecuador

A family of dormant volcanoes dominates the landscape in this radar image of the Andes Mountains in northern Ecuador. The city of Otavalo, shown in pink, and Lake Otavalo lie within the triangle formed by three volcanoes in the upper part of the image. These volcanoes are, clockwise from upper left, Mojanda, Imabura and Cusin. A lake partially fills the summit crater of Mojanda and a group of lava domes can be seen on the north flank. Geologists believe the most recent eruption of Mojanda was about 3,400 years ago. Much more recent activity has occurred at Cayambe, the large volcano at the bottom of the image. Massive mudflow deposits can be seen filling the valleys on the east (right) side of Cayambe. Cayambe last erupted about 600 years ago. Geologists are using radar to study volcanoes in the Andes to determine the history of eruptions and to identify potential threats the volcanoes pose to local communities. This image was acquired by the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SIR-C/X-SAR) aboard the space shuttle Endeavour on April 14, 1994. The image is centered at 0.1 degrees north latitude, 78.1 degrees west longitude. The area shown is approximately 50 km by 50 km (31 miles by 31 miles). North is toward the upper right. Colors are assigned to different frequencies and polarizations of the radar as follows: red is L-band horizontally transmitted, vertically received; green is L- band horizontally transmitted, vertically received; and blue is C-band horizontally transmitted, horizontally 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..
Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration - NASA/JPL/NIMA

Galapagos Islands, Pacific Ocean

The equator cuts through the very north end of the largest of the Galapagos Islands, pictured here in a Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image from May 16, 2003. These tropical islands are located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador, and their volcanic origin is revealed by the remains of dark brown lava flows visible along many of the islands´ coasts. The biggest island is Isla Isabela, with Isla Fernandina to the west and Isla San Salvador to the east. To the southeast of San Salvador is Isla Santa Cruz, with the much smaller Isla Santa Maria to the south. The easternmost island is Isla Cristobal, with Isla Espanola to its southwest. Several other smaller islands are part of this chain, famous for the insights the islands´ unique flora and fauna provided to the naturalist Charles Darwin as he developed his theory of evolution by natural selection.
Source: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

Ash from Erupting El Reventador Blankets Quito

Ecuadors El Reventador volcano, situated roughly 60 miles northeast of Quito, erupted suddenly on November 3, 2002, sending a cloud of ash 10 miles into the sky. This true-color scene was acquired by the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS), flying aboard the OrbView-2 satellite, within hours after the eruption began. In this scene, the volcanic plume appears grey and can easily be distinguished from the whiter clouds. Much of the ash has settled onto Ecuadors capital city and the surrounding countryside, prompting Ecuadors president to declare a state of emergency for the 1.4 million inhabitants of the region. Scientists were surprised by the eruption, which spewed ash and gases into the sky throughout the day of November 3. Hot ash, gases, and burning rocks also rained down the flanks of the volcano. By the morning of November 4, El Reventadors ongoing eruption had subsided somewhat. However, geologists urged residents of Quito to remain cautious because the volcano could erupt again. Scientists and local officials are also concerned that the eruption could create a humanitarian crisis for the region, both in that the ash is polluting the local water supply as well as potentially poisoning livestock grazing on soot-covered vegetation in the region.
Source: Image courtesy the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE

Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador

On February 19, 2000, Space Shuttle Endeavour passed over the highly active and dangerous volcanic zone of the Andes in Equador. Endeavour was mapping elevations on most of the Earths land surface during the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). There have been more than 50 eruptions of Mt. Cotopaxi alone since 1738. With its height of 5,897 meters it is more than 3,000 meters higher than the surroundings. The base of this stratovolcano has a width about 23 km. The digital elevation model acquired by SRTM, with its resolution of 25 m x 25 m, is so rich in detail that you can even make out an inner crater with a diameter of 120 m by 250 m inside the outer crater (800 m x 650 m). Blue and green correspond to the lowest elevations in the image, while beige, orange, red, and white represent increasing elevations. Numerous valleys formed by powerful Lahars (mudflows) are prominent in the digital elevation model. Lahars can cause severe damage even 300 km away from the volcano. This poses a high risk to the local population, their settlements and fields. Interferometry is especially useful in monitoring such dangerous volcanoes. Highly accurate observations of changes in volcanoes from space can provide vital parameters for early warning systems, without risk to the lives of scientists. An operational system, though, would rely on a system of interferometric sensors to map on a regular basis. For more information about this image, and a wider-scale view, visit X-SAR/SRTM Elevation Model Shows Highest Active Volcano in the World.
Source: Image courtesy German Remote Sensing Data Center