A gigantic lava flow photographed in the heart of the American desert

NASA has managed to map the entire length of the Carrizozo Malpaís, a large basaltic lava flow in New Mexico. Adobe Stock

NASA has managed to fully map the Carrizozo Malpaís, a 75 km long lava formation.

Seen from the sky, it forms a black scar in the desert. A very long landmark that took no less than four shots to capture in its full extent. This is the work of an unidentified astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The latter took photos of the Carrizozo Malpaís, a large basaltic lava flow located in New Mexico, a state in the southwestern United States, reveals a NASA news release issued Sept. 26.

The multiple images, taken on June 30, 2022, cover the approximately 33,700 hectares and 75 kilometers long formation. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), this lava flow in the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert is the result of an eruption that occurred about 5,000 years ago and would have lasted between 20 and 30 years. During this time, magma slowly flowed from a shield volcano [volcan qui se caractérise par des coulées de lave fluide]currently inactive. “The lava flow is one of the longest known to have formed on Earth in the past 10,000 years”reveals the USGS.

The Carrizozo Malpaís is a lava flow of unprecedented length. It took four NASA exposures to capture everything. NASA Earth Observatory

Highly detailed aerial photos

As Live Science reports, most of the lava came from a 27-meter-tall volcanic cone — a clump of ash and debris from one or more eruptions — that locals call “Little Black Peak.” It’s one of the highest points on the shield volcano, NASA adds. The lightest areas in the images correspond to fissures and collapses caused by the formation of aging lava.

The Carrizozo Malpaís, which have been known for a long time, could not be recorded in detail. The latest images released by NASA are the most detailed aerial photos ever taken of the lava flow. Contrary to what its dark color might suggest, the latter did not prevent the appearance of life. A number of plant species characteristic of desert environments have grown, such as the prickly pear or the juniper.

Man has also left his mark. A road cuts through the area north of the lava flow. A train line is also nearby. So many traces that show the importance of the Carrizozo Malpaís in the surrounding landscape.

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