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Mystery Photo

What in the world is it?

Mystery Photo

Don’t peek at the answer until you’ve given this a good try! Then, scroll down a bit and the truth will be revealed to you.

Image Credit: James Foster, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center /NASA

An electron microscope image of a nose wart? An aerial view of a mud bomb? Well in a way it’s pretty close to the latter guess. This image was acquired by the Landsat 7 satellite on August 22, 1999. It shows area of the catastrophic eruption of Mt. St. Helens that happened on May 18, 1980. That eruption ranks among the most important natural events of the twentieth century in the United States. Because Mt. St. Helens is in a remote area of the Cascades Mountains, only a few people were killed by the eruption, but property damage and destruction totaled in the billions of dollars. Some of the effects of the massive eruption on May 18, 1980, can still be seen clearly, especially on the northern and eastern flanks of Mount St. Helens, which are still mostly barren (shades of white and gray). The crater is in the center of the image. Note the streaking from the crater (gray on the image). These are the remnants of pyroclastic flows (superheated avalanches of gas, ash and pieces of rock) that carved deep channels down the slopes and onto the relatively flat areas near the base of the mountain. The partially-filled Spirit Lake can be seen just to the northeast of the crater (blue-black on the image), and the where most of the energy was directed during the blast is the gray area immediately to the northwest of the crater. However, on other parts of the mountain, the rejuvenation process is obvious. Ash deposits have supplied minerals which have accelerated vegetation growth (various shades of green). Though far from what it looked like 20 years ago, Mount St Helens is actively recovering.

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