U.S. astronaut Ron Garan posted a stunning image today of Hurricane Irene as seen from the International Space Station some 225 miles above the planet.
Garan, a flight engineer who has been living and working on the station since April, captured the image as Irene gathered srength Monday over the Caribbean Sea.
Now generating winds near 100 mph, the storm is the first in three years to threaten the United States. Forecasters say it could strengthen into a monster Category 4 storm with winds topping 131 mph.
Irene is expected to move near The Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas early tonight. The latest projections show the storm likely will skirt the east coast of Florida as it churns toward North Carolina. However, there still is a 40 percent probability that the storm could make landfall in Florida.
NASA's Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station remain in Hurricane Condition IV, which means that sustain winds of 58 mph or stronger are expected within 72 hours. NASA and Air Force meteorologists will meet again later today.
ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the image of Hurricane Irene as seen from the International Space Station on Monday. You can also click the enlarged image to see an even bigger, more detailed view.