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Holiday calendar: Staring down into Mount Vesuvius

DigitalGlobe's GeoEye 1 satellite captured this view, looking straight down into the caldera of Italy's snow-covered Mount Vesuvius from a height of 423 miles (681 kilometers), on Feb. 19. The picture is one of DigitalGlobe's top 20 satellite images of 2013.DigitalGlobe

More than MCMXXXIV years ago, Italy's Mount Vesuvius turned Pompeii into a death trap — but the sleeping volcano just yawns in an image captured by DigitalGlobe's GeoEye 1 satellite in February. This overhead view of Vesuvius is the current leader in DigitalGlobe's satellite image contest, with more than 3,500 "likes" from Facebook fans.

There's still plenty of time for some other picture in 2013's top 20 to take the lead: First-round voting continues through Dec. 16. We'll be featuring more of the top-rated satellite views in our Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which features daily pictures of our planet as seen from space through Christmas.

Visit our archives to learn more about Mount Vesuvius' famous eruption in the year 79 and its potentially explosive future — and check out The Atlantic's Hubble Advent CalendarZooniverse's Advent calendar and the Galileo's Pendulum Science Advent Calendar for still more visual goodies.

Previously on the Space Advent Calendar:

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with NBCNews.com's stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.