Bad Astronomy

Holy Haleakala! I mean, Manam!

Check. This. Out.

That’s the Manam volcano in Papua New Guinea, as imaged by NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite (and you can also download a ginormously embiggened version, too). In late June the volcano had a minor eruption, captured by the orbiting camera. You can see several older pyroclastic flow beds, where previous eruptions spewed out viciously hot rocks, gas, and ash which roared down the slope of the volcano to the sea.

Images like this, especially when taken over long periods of time to show changes in the landscape, help scientists understand just how these volcanoes work. That can lead to better predictive power, and that can save lives.

Some people say the space program is a waste of money. Perhaps they forget that we sometimes point our advanced equipment back at ourselves, to learn more about the planet we call home. And if they still gripe, perhaps we can remind them that this particular satellite cost each person in the U.S. just a few pennies; how much do they think the thrill of seeing such a gorgeous picture of Manam should cost… even if it had no scientific value at all?