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Amazon rainforest fires spread ghostly smoke in dramatic ISS images

An ESA astronaut captured the tragedy from the International Space Station.

Luca Parmitano snapped this view of smoke from the Amazon rainforest fires on Aug. 24.
ESA/NASA–L. Parmitano

The Amazon rainforest in South America has been on fire for weeks, spreading smoke across the land and leaving the world watching as the delicate ecosystem is consumed by flames during its annual dry season. 

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano is far above the devastation on board the International Space Station, but he's in a unique position to witness the fires, most of which are caused by humans, as fire is often used to clear out the land for farming or ranching. 

On Monday, Parmitano tweeted a series of images taken from space on Aug. 24. 

The smoke trailed across thousands of kilometers, Parmitano wrote. The haze is so widespread, it resembles clouds in some of the photos.

This view from the ISS shows the smoke from the 2019 Amazon rainforest fires.

ESA/NASA–L. Parmitano

The ISS images add a new angle to the previous space views supplied by satellites. The Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite detected almost 4,000 rainforest fires in August alone, compared with 1,110 seen last year in the same time period, ESA said in a release on Tuesday.

Parmitano's tweet also contained a trenchant hashtag: #noplanetB. This has become a shorthand reference to the impact and dangers of human-caused climate change, which has already led to record global temperatures, triggered massive ice melts and pushed wildfires to new extremes.

Check out our Amazon rainforest fires explainer for more on what is causing the blazes, how world leaders are responding and what you can do to help.