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NASA releases aerial images of attack site

Image of the attack area from NASA's Terra satellite.  

(CNN) -- NASA released aerial images from a satellite and the international space station Alpha Wednesday that show the area affected by the attack on the World Trade Center.

An attack on the Pentagon also occurred shortly after two commercial airplanes were hijacked and flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York on Tuesday. Both towers eventually collapsed. A fourth plane that was hijacked crashed in a wooded area in Pennsylvania.

Details in the NASA images are sketchy, but each one clearly shows a huge plume of smoke drifting away from the site.

The first image is from NASA's Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), aboard the Terra satellite.

NASA said the white streak stretching due south from lower Manhattan is the smoke plume from the explosion and collapse of the buildings. The photo is from 11:16 a.m. EDT Tuesday. NASA said that the winds were almost due north at the time, while the smoke plume drifted south over New Jersey.

Image taken from the international space station Alpha.  

The other image taken from the space station shows a better picture of the area where the airliners crashed into the buildings in New York. It was taken Tuesday afternoon at an altitude of 250 miles.

Space Station Commander Frank Culbertson made references to Tuesday's tragedy while observing the images.

"At the end, as we went over Maine, we could see New York City and the smoke from the fires. Our prayers and thoughts go out to all the people there and everywhere else," said Culbertson. "And I hope that the people responsible are caught and brought to justice as soon as possible, but first, our prayers and condolences to all our lost."

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