Pagan Island, Northern Marianas
ISS030-E-122047 (6 March 2012) --- Pagan Island, Northern Marianas is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 30 crew member on the International Space Station. A steam plume flows south from the peak of Pagan Island’s northernmost volcano in this photograph. Pagan is part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, an island chain of volcanoes that form the margin between the Pacific Ocean (to the east) and the Philippine Sea (to the west). Pagan is made up of two stratovolcanoes separated by an isthmus, and is one of the more volcanically active islands. The last eruption was in 2010, but the island was completely evacuated in 1981 when a large eruption forced the small Micronesian community to flee. According to NASA scientists, the islands themselves mark the tectonic boundary where the old, cold Pacific plate is subducted beneath the younger, less dense Philippine Sea crust at the Marianas Trench. The subduction results in substantial volcanic activity on the upper plate, forming the island arc of the Marianas. Considered to be one of the type examples for an oceanic subduction zone, the Marianas Trench includes the deepest spot in Earth’s oceans (more than 10,000 meters). The foreshortened appearance of the island is due to the viewing angle and distance from the space station, which was located over the Pacific Ocean approximately 480 kilometers to the southeast of Pagan Island when the image was taken.