Earthquake in Haiti: Visible from Orbit

Jan 18, 2010 3:26pm

The earthquake in Haiti was not a surprise to the world's seismologists; the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault that caused it is visible from space as an almost-straight east-west line passing south of Port-au-Prince.

NASA has sent several images from different spacecraft, and they're sobering.  This one, from the EO-1 Earth Observing satellite on Friday, shows Port-au-Prince as a gray smudge in the center of the picture.  The Plantain Garden Fault is not very clear in this image, but it cuts from east to west, just south of the shoreline stretching to the left of the city. Click on images to enlarge.

This image, from the commercially-operated GeoEye-1 satellite on the day after the earthquake, shows some buildings reduced to rubble.  GeoEye-1 orbits 425 miles above the earth, but people show up as dark dots in the picture.

Here is another GeoEye view from Wednesday.  You still see roofs and streets, but NASA's Natural Hazards program says not to be lulled.  "Geometric shapes define structures that appear undamaged from above, but this appearance may be deceptive. The buildings may be damaged under an intact roof," writes Holli Riebeek in an explanation.

(Image credits: NASA (top), GeoEye (bottom two))

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