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Texas Burning: Earth Image of the Week September 16, 2011
Astronaut photo of metro Houston.
The greater Houston metropolitan area, seen above, has a population of nearly 6 million, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
When the Internatiwonal Space Station passed northeastward over the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, Sept. 9, several major wildfires were burning across Texas and Oklahoma.

Astronaut Ron Garan captured the image to the right of metropolitan Houston and a huge conflagration burning to the northwest of the city.

After the image was taken Friday morning, that Riley Road Fire went on to consume more than 18,000 acres of brush and forest.

It also destroyed more than 75 homes and other buildings in Grimes, Montgomery and Waller counties of Texas.

A large plume of smoke can be seen in the image blowing northeastward across the far suburbs of Houston.

The Riley Road Fire was only one of dozens that have destroyed more than 1,000 homes elsewhere in Texas and neighboring Oklahoma over the past three weeks.

Also clearly visible in the astronaut photo are the beaches around Galveston, the dense industrial and shipping area on the Houston Ship Channel and the sprawling network of highways surrounding the largest city in Texas.

Photo: NASA Twitpic