Astronauts Savor View of Hurricane 'Igor the Terrible' and Sister Storm

Friday, September 17th 2010, 5:20 am
By: News On 6

by Tariq Malik Managing Editor

UNDATED -- Hurricane Igor dazzled the crew aboard the International Space Station and even earned a nickname after the astronauts gazed straight through the huge storm's eye to see the ocean waters below.

American astronaut Douglas Wheelock and his crewmates peered down at Igor from an observation deck as their outpost sailed 220 miles (354 km) above the storm Tuesday (Sept. 14). Wheelock posted a photo of it on Twitter, where he writes as Astro_Wheels, and dubbed the hurricane "Igor the Terrible." [Astronaut photo: Eye Hurricane Igor.]

In an interview televised on NASA TV that same day, Wheelock said: "We looked right into the eye of Hurricane Igor, which is absolutely fantastic, the view. We could see the water of the Atlantic Ocean right down through the eye, and it was spectacular. It really just takes your breath away ... no words to describe it."

Wheelock also snapped a photo of the Atlantic storm that would become Hurricane Julia.   

Astronaut Shannon Walker agreed with Wheelock's description.

"The hurricanes are spectacular," she said.

NASA released a video of Hurricane Igor from space, recorded by cameras on the station Tuesday.

As of today (Sept. 15), Igor had weakened slightly, though it remained a Category 4 hurricane on the Safir-Simpson scale, according to the National Hurricane Center. The strongest storms are labeled Category 5.

Wheelock photographed Julia as it left the Cape Verde Islands, before it produced the wind speeds fast enough and barometric pressure low enough to gain hurricane status. In his Twitter post, Wheelock said he expected Julia to grow stronger.

"Currently only a tropical storm, but showing tremendous organization and rotation," Wheelock wrote. "I think we may hear more from Julia in the coming days." Currently it is a Category 4 hurricane like Igor.

Space station astronauts have been keeping a close watch on the 2010 hurricane season, which runs from June through November. Storm scientists are also tracking another potential hurricane, Tropical Storm Karl, as it makes landfall on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. Coming back out over the Gulf of Mexico, it could strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall again along the coast of Mexico

The space station is currently home to six astronauts: three Americans and three Russians.