Spectacular Images of Raikoke Volcanic Eruption Taken from Space

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have a unique perspective of Earth's natural wonders from hundreds of miles above.

For almost a century, the Kuril Islands' quiet volcano has rested in its isolated environment - a dormant period that came to a close on June 22 much to the chagrin of satellites and astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The Raikoke Volcano-located on an island in the northwestern Pacific's Kuril archipelago-has been dormant for roughly a century. "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.

The volcano's ash plume is now drifting north over the Bering Sea as of yesterday, according to the European Space Agency. The most recent previous eruption at Raikoke was in 1924, and the one before that was in 1778. This cloud could likely be water vapor condensing out of the air; alternatively, it could be steam from the hot bright orange magma entering the water.

Image shows the volcanic column rising upward before spreading out laterally in what is known as an umbrella region.

The European Space Agency's Copernicus Sentinel satellite also snapped an image of the unexpected eruption.

View based on data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP.

According to the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers in Tokyo, Japan; and Anchorage, Alaska, the plume may have reached an altitude as high as eight miles. Satellites have also been monitoring the ash that spewed from the volcano, since rock and volcanic glass fragments can pose a "serious hazard to aircraft", according to the press release.

The Raikoke eruption also produced a concentrated plume of sulfur dioxide (SO2) that separated from the ash and swirled throughout the North Pacific.

Volcanologists keep a close eye on plumes that reach this level of the stratosphere, as they can have a large effect on both aviation and climate.

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