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An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) captured an extraordinary image of a hydrothermal lake in a snow circle on top of the real-life “Mount Doom” in New Zealand.
Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand’s largest active mountain volcano and the setting used to film Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films is at the heart of Tanganyika National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the center of New Zealand’s North Island. Other parts of the park were also used to depict the evil realm of Mordor in the film adaptation of the fantasy epic by J. RR Tolkien by Peter Jackson.
An unidentified astronaut who was part of the Expedition 65 crew aboard the ISS captured a stunning new photo on September 23, 2021, as the ISS flew over the volcano. The image was published on the Internet on September 18 of this year NASA Earth Observatory (opens in a new tab).
The hydrothermal lake at the summit of Mount Ruapehu, known as Crater Lake, or Te Wai a-moe, is located between the mountain’s three main peaks, the highest of which reaches 9,177 feet (2,797 meters) above sea level. The magma chamber in the depths of the volcano heats the lake, and as a result temperature the lake ranges from 59 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 45 degrees Celsius). According to the Earth Observatory, the lake is also very acidic, with a pH of less than 1, due to the large amount of volcanic gases dissolved in the water.
On the subject: In 2021, volcanoes hit us 10 times
The crater lake is important to geologists who monitor the volcano’s threat level. The hydrothermal lake is the only accessible part of the volcanic system that researchers can study, and rapid temperature fluctuations in the water may reflect changes in activity beneath the volcano’s snowy summit.
In June, the danger level for Mount Ruapehu was raised from “minor volcanic disturbance” to “moderate to severe volcanic disturbance,” according to the Geological Hazard Information website GeoNet (opens in a new tab), after a mini-swarm of earthquakes under the volcano. During this time, the water temperature in Crater Lake rose dramatically to a maximum temperature of 104 F (40 C).
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But the alert level was lowered in July after the water temperature dropped to 75 F (24 C). Based on temperature changes in the lake, experts believe that the burst of activity was the result of a brief intrusion of magma into a chamber beneath the volcano, the Earth Observatory reports.
This is not the first time that real volcanoes have been confused with fictional places in Middle Earth.
In 2021, researchers discovered the remains of a deep-sea caldera that belonged to a long-extinct underwater volcano. The team nicknamed the “Eye of Sauron” structure because of its resemblance to the all-seeing eye from The Lord of the Rings.
Originally published on Live Science.