NASA Releases Spectacular Photo of Erupting Volcano

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One of the images shot by an Expedition 59 astronaut shows smoke billowing from a volcano on the uninhabited island known as Raikoke, located northeast of Japan. The largely dormant volcano erupted for the first time in almost 100 years at 4 a.m. local time (6 p.m. GMT on June 21), sending a cloud of thick volcanic plumes 8 to 10 miles (13 to 17 kilometers) above sea level, according to the European Space Agency, whose Copernicus Sentinel satellite imaged the eruption from orbit. You can also see a ring of clouds around the column, possibly the result of water vapor condensation or the "interaction between magma and seawater", says Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech.

Raikoke is a small, oval-shaped island and flows likely entered the water, scientists have speculated. Unlike its more volcanically active neighbours, Raikoke has been dormant since 1924.

The volcanic ash and gas rises in a narrow column and spreads out in the upper part of the plume in the shape of an umbrella, as seen in images taken by astronauts at the International Space Station.

The towering plume extended to an altitude of about 43,000 feet (13 kilometers); it rose from the volcano's crater and formed a spindly column that puffed out at the top.

Satellites captured other images of the eruption, from different perspectives and at slightly different times.

Another image, captioned by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite, shows concentrated ash on the western edge of the plume, above Raikoke.

Raikoke a few hours after the initial eruption, captured by the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite. The Kuril Islands also have other volcanoes, naturally, and in 2009, Sarychev volcano also erupted, caught on camera by ISS flying over it. A day after Raikoke erupted, which by the way means "Hellmouth" in the Ainu language, it was all over.

NASA said that because ash contains sharp fragments of rock and volcanic glass, it poses a serious hazard to aircraft.

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