Raikoke volcano seen erupting in incredible image from space

It then went silent for almost 100 years, until, on June 22, Raikoke spewed forth a blast of ash and volcanic glass so powerful it could be seen from space.

Because the ISS photo was taken at an angle and not directly above the volcano, the impressive height, girth and structure of the ash plume is visible, as is the shadow cast by the plume on the cloud cover far below.

Astronauts clicked an incredible picture of the volcano where the volcanic plume is seen rising up in a narrow column and spreading out in a part of the plume, called, the umbrella region. That's the space the place the density of the plume and the encompassing air equalize and the plume stops rising. The last recorded eruptions of the volcano were in 1924 and in 1778.

Scientists said the ash could have reached an altitude of 8 to 10 miles. NASA reports that when Raikoke erupted, a concentrated plume of sulfur dioxide separated from the plume and began drifting across the North Pacific. "It reminds me of the classic Sarychev Peak astronaut photograph of an eruption in the Kuriles from about ten years ago", said Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech, NASA reported in its release. Unlike some of its perpetually active neighbours on the Kamchatka Peninsula, Raikoke Volcano on the Kuril Islands rarely erupts.

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The ring of clouds at the base of the plume appears to be water vapor, according to the space agency.

"The ring of white puffy clouds at the base of the column might be a sign of ambient air being drawn into the column and the condensation of water vapor", he said. NASA's Terra and Suomi NPP satellites also saw the plume in space. The ash flung up by volcanoes contains fragments of rock and glass, posing a serious hazard to aircraft.

In addition to tracking ash, satellite sensors can also track the movements of volcanic gases.

Carn indicated that the toxic gas may have reached the stratosphere, Earth's second layer of the atmosphere. "The persistence of large SO2 amounts over the last two days also indicates stratospheric injection".

  • Douglas Reid