Minchinmávida and Chaitén Volcanoes
The Chaitén and Minchinmávida Volcanoes lie in the Andes Mountains, along the western coast of South America, which is host to numerous volcanoes. The volcanoes were created by, and are still fueled by, the magma generated as the Nazca tectonic plate subducts under the South American plate.
The two volcanoes shown in this photo taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station lie near the southern boundary of the NazcaSouth America subduction zone in southern Chile.
Charles Darwin observed an eruption of Minchinmávida during his Galapagos Islands voyage in 1834. The volcano's last recorded eruption took place the following year.
Chaitén has erupted more recently - it roared to life unexpectedly on May 2, 2008, generating dense ash plumes and forcing the evacuation of the nearby town of Chaitén. Volcanic activity continued at Chaitén in early 2009; several days before this astronaut photograph was taken, a new lava dome partially collapsed and generated a pyroclastic flow (a scalding avalanche of gas, ash, and rock debris).
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Andrea Thompson is an associate editor at Scientific American, where she covers sustainability, energy and the environment. Prior to that, she was a senior writer covering climate science at Climate Central and a reporter and editor at Live Science, where she primarily covered Earth science and the environment. She holds a graduate degree in science health and environmental reporting from New York University, as well as a bachelor of science and and masters of science in atmospheric chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology.