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Astronaut watches California wildfires spewing smoke from space (photos)

A view of smoke billowing across the skies of California on Aug. 29, 2021, captured by NASA astronaut Megan McArthur aboard the International Space Station.
A view of smoke billowing across the skies of California on Aug. 29, 2021, captured by NASA astronaut Megan McArthur aboard the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

Astronauts living and working on the International Space Station continue to monitor fires burning across California during a particularly serious fire season.

"California on Sunday from @Space_Station," NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, who attended high school and college in California, wrote in a tweet sharing four photographs on Twitter on Thursday (Sept. 1). "Tough to see these views of my home state. My thoughts are with all those affected."

McArthur doesn't specify what parts of California are shown in her images. However, the three largest fires currently blazing across the state are all located in northern California.

Gallery: California's Caldor Fire seen from space in harrowing satellite images 

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The Dixie Fire, which began on July 13, is the largest fire of the season to date and has already burned more than 800,000 acres (3,200 square kilometers), while nearby Monument Fire has burned more than 175,000 acres (700 sq km). A third large blaze, the Caldor Fire, has burned more than 200,000 acres (800 sq km) east of Sacramento.

While McArthur and her colleagues are photographing fires from an altitude of 250 miles (400 km), a host of satellites are also monitoring the fires and the resulting smoke. Among those are NASA's Landsat 8 and Aqua satellites.

California and the rest of the western United States are facing a brutal wildfire season this year, directly on the heels of 2020's and 2018's record-breaking fire seasons. Climate change is lengthening the region's annual fire season by mechanisms including higher temperatures and lower precipitation rates.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Meghan Bartels

Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.