Video: Enormous ancient lava was seen from space like a dark scar

The eruption gave rise around 5000 years ago.
Nergis Firtina
Carrizozo Malpaís
Carrizozo Malpaís


"When viewed from a satellite, a massive ancient lava flow resembles a huge black scar on the New Mexico desert," says astronauts.

An image of an ancient lava flow traversing the New Mexico desert was captured in breathtaking detail by an astronaut on board the International Space Station (ISS). The frozen river of volcanic rock appears to be a deep scar on the desert below when viewed from above.

As LiveScience reported, The Carrizozo Malpas, a basaltic lava flow, is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) long and occupies around 130 square miles (337 square kilometers).

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), it is one of the most extraordinary lava flows to have erupted on Earth in the previous 10,000 years. It is situated close to the city of Carrizozo in the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico.

Around 5,000 years ago, the eruption that gave rise to the Carrizozo Malpas started and lasted for 20 to 30 years. During that period, an underground shield volcano, which is now inactive, slowly began to spew lava out of the Earth. According to USGS, the molten rock was dispersed across a vast area by insulated lava tubes beneath the surface.

The new image was created as a mosaic from four photos shot on June 30 by an unnamed member of the Expedition 67 crew when they were on board the International Space Station.

The stitched-together image, one of the most comprehensive aerial photographs of the lava flow ever captured, was posted online on Monday, September 26, by the NASA Earth Observatory.

Although the ancient lava field may appear lifeless from above, Earth Observatory reports that a variety of desert plant species, including juniper trees, perennial flowers, and prickly pear cactuses (Opuntia), may flourish in the frozen magma.


The 75-km- (50-mi-) long Carrizozo lava flow is located in south-central New Mexico in the Tularosa Basin. The eruption began approximately 5,000 years ago, and after two to three decades at a relatively low effusion rate, 4.3 km3 (1 mi3) of basalt lava covered 330 km2 (130 mi2) of land. All of the lava originated from a vent, Little Black Peak, on the northern end, which is visible today as a 27-m (88-ft) tall cinder cone that rises above the flow. The vent lies within a zone of known crustal weakness, the Capitan lineament, where magmas are able to rise through the crust and erupt on the surface. The lava flow is one of the longest known that has erupted on Earth in the past 10,000 years. It achieved its great length by flowing in insulated lava tubes. Carrizozo Malpais is the local name, which roughly translates to “bad footing” in Spanish, and describes the difficulty of traversing the area.

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