However, most of the imaging instruments aboard those satellites are pointing straight down, and are timed to pass overhead when the sun is high above the horizon, providing optimum illumination.
But astronauts using digital cameras aboard the International Space Station take pictures of landscapes, looking at an angle when the sun is casting longer shadows in the late afternoon and early morning.
This can provide a seemingly 3-D look at the world’s geological features, sometimes providing better details to the human eye.
Such is the case in the image to the upper right, showing some of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula volcanoes. It was taken by an astronaut on November 19, 2010, with a Nikon D3S camera using an 800 mm lens.
Its oblique view, together with shadows cast by the volcanoes and mountains, provides perspective about the topography of the region.
Kronotsky and Kizimen stratovolcanoes are distinguished by their symmetrical cones. Kizimen last erupted in 1928, while Kronotsky — one of the largest on the peninsula — last erupted in 1923. Schmidt Volcano, to the north of Kronotsky, is known as a shield volcano and is not known to have erupted since humans have been keeping records.
To the south (lower left) is Krasheninnikov, comprised of overlapping stratovolcanoes that formed within an earlier caldera. Krasheninnikov may have last erupted in 1550. Two summit craters are clearly visible.
Lake Kronotsky is Kamchatka’s largest lake. It formed when lava flows from Kronotsky Volcano dammed the Listvenichnaya River.
Full story and image: NASA