Hurricane Irma is barreling through the Caribbean as a massive Category 5 storm and its fury unmistakable even from orbit, according to the crew on the International Space Station (ISS).
"Hurricane Irma is clearly visible from the ISS," Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy wrote in a Twitter post showing his photos of Irma from space. "It is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever."
It was the sheer size of Hurricane Irma that left Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency in awe. On Wednesday (Sept. 6), he had to snap several photos of the storm just to take it all in. [Hurricane Irma in Photos: Space Views of the Monster Storm]
"One image wasn't enough for what may be the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever, stay safe down there," Nespoli wrote on Twitter.
Cameras mounted to the exterior of the space station have been beaming views of Hurricane Irma daily as the orbiting lab sails high over the storm. The station makes 16 orbits of Earth each day.
As of 2 p.m. EDT today (Sept. 7), Irma had maximum sustained winds of 175 mph (280 km/h) and was moving across the Caribbean about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north-northeast of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, according to an update from the National Hurricane Center. In Florida, where residents are preparing for Irma's arrival later this week, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral announced it will close on Friday (Sept. 8) and remain so through at least Monday (Sept. 11).
In Puerto Rico, where Irma made landfall late Wednesday, officials with the Arecibo Observatory — the world's second-largest radio telescope — reported that the iconic observatory appears to have survived the storm relatively unscathed, though damage evaluations are ongoing.
Ryazanskiy, Nespoli and NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik make up the Expedition 53 crew living on the International Space Station. The trio will be joined by three new crewmembers next week.