Islands of the Four Mountains

Islands of the Four Mountains
  • Credit:

    Astronaut photograph ISS038-E-3612 was acquired on November 15, 2013, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 400 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 38 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, Jacobs at NASA-JSC.

Morning sunlight illuminates the southeast-facing slopes of the Islands of the Four Mountains in this photograph taken from the International Space Station (ISS). The islands, part of the Aleutian Island chain, are actually the upper slopes of volcanoes rising from the sea floor: Carlisle, Cleveland, Herbert, and Tana. Carlisle and Herbert volcanoes are distinct cones and form separate islands. Cleveland volcano and the Tana volcanic complex form the eastern and western ends respectively of Chuginadak Island. A cloud bank obscures the connecting land mass in this image.

Cleveland volcano (elevation 1,730 meters above sea level) is one of the most active in the Aleutian chain, with its most recent activity—eruptions and lava flow emplacement—taking place in May of 2013 (A crew aboard the ISS captured an earlier eruption in 2006.) The northernmost of the islands, Carlisle volcano (peak elevation 1,620 meters), had its last confirmed eruption occurred in 1828, with unconfirmed reports of activity in 1987. Herbert volcano (peak elevation 1280 meters) displays a classic cone structure breached by a two-kilometer wide summit caldera (image lower left), but there are no historical records of volcanic activity. The easternmost peak, Tana (1,170 meters) is a volcanic complex comprised of two east-west trending volcanoes and associated younger cinder cones. Like Herbert volcano, there is no historical record of activity at Tana.

A layer of low cloud and/or fog obscures much of the lower elevations of the islands and the sea surface, but the clouds also indicate the general airflow pattern around and through the islands. Directly to the south-southeast of Cleveland volcano, a Von Karman vortex street is visible. Shadows cast by the morning sun extend from the peaks towards the northwest. The peaks of all of the Four Islands have snow cover. This is distinct from the clouds due to both higher brightness (white versus gray) and the specific location on the landscape.

Images & Animations


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  • Data Date:

    November 15, 2013
  • Visualization Date:

    December 11, 2013
  • Sensor(s):

    ISS - Digital Camera
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration