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April 13, 2011
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite captured this nearly cloud-free image of Japan on April 5, 2011 at 4:00 UTC. The mountainous islands of Japan lie in a crescent off the eastern coast of Asia, separated from the mainland by the Sea of Japan, and the four largest islands are clearly visible in this image.

In the north, the widespread mountain ranges of the island of Hokkaido appear to be dusted with spring snow. To the south, the large island of Honshu is divided by a large chain of rugged, snow covered mountains. The southern third of Honshu is less rugged, and is covered in green, probably indicating forest. Shikoku, the island nestled in the Pacific-facing curve of the large island, and Kyushu, the southernmost of the four largest islands also are largely green.

The archipelago of Japan contains over 3,000 islands, and is located in a volcanic zone on the Pacific Ring of Fire. The archipelago is both volcanically and seismically active. The islands contain many dormant volcanoes and over 100 active ones. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook, Japan averages about 1,500 seismic occurrences each year. Most are small tremors, but some are large and significant, such as the 9.0 magnitude earthquake which struck off the northeast coast of Honshu on March 11, 2011.

Near the western edge of this image, red hotspots and smoke plumes indicate fires burning in North Korea and Russia. The smoke creates a haze over the land and gray plumes can be seen stretching over the Sea of Japan. These fires are probably agricultural in origin.

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