Massive Volcano Eruption Seen From Space

Joshua Stevens  NASA Earth ObservatoryA satellite image of Raikoke’s eruption taken on June 22

Joshua Stevens NASA Earth ObservatoryA satellite image of Raikoke’s eruption taken on June 22

The week's best space photo is from the worldwide Space Station, where astronauts happened to be at the right place at the right time to capture the major part of an eruption of the Raikoke Volcano on an island near Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.

A dramatic photo released by NASA shows the volcano's plume shooting up over clouds above Raikoke, an uninhabited volcanic island in the northwest Pacific, that last erupted in 1924 and 1778.

Amongst Russia's Kuril Islands is the uninhabitable island of Raikoke.

At 4:00 a.m. local time, however, the first of at least nine volcanic pulses began.

Furthermore, NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer also managed to capture a photo when most of the ash was concentrated on the western edge of the plume, while the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite also captured a third one hours later when the ash had already spread and the activity had subsided.

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Astronauts have been able to take pics of the narrow column of the plume as it rose and expanded over an area called the umbrella region. That is where the plume stops rising, its density equalizing with that of the surrounding air.

Since ash contains sharp fragments of rock and volcanic glass, it poses a serious hazard to aircraft.

Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers in Tokyo and Anchorage reported that the ash had reached as high as 13 kilometers (eight miles).

What's more, authorities are also tracking the movement of volcanic gases, as the plume of sulfur dioxide interacted with the storm in the North Pacific and appears to be persisting in the stratosphere. Plumes that reach such heights are watched closely by volcanologists as they tend to stick around for longer and have the greatest effect on aviation and climate - as we saw in 2010 with Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull.

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