As Seen From Space: Mt. Etna Boils Over

Italy’s Mount Etna has turned on again, spewing lava and gas in its first big eruption in 2013. The volcano is one of the most active in the world, and is Europe’s tallest active volcano, currently standing about 3,329 m (10,922 ft) high.

The volcano has been “simmering” for 10 months, but on February 19 and 20, the famous volcano came to life, providing dramatic visuals from the ground (see the video below) as well as from space, with three outbursts in less than 36 hours. This image from the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured Etna on February 19 at 9:59 a.m. Central European Time, about 3 hours after the end of the first outbursts.

The false-color image combines shortwave infrared, near infrared, and green light in the red, green, and blue channels of an RGB picture. This combination differentiates the appearance of fresh lava, snow, clouds, and forest.

Fresh lava is bright red—the hot surface emits enough energy to saturate the instrument’s shortwave infrared detectors, but is dark in near infrared and green light. Snow is blue-green, because it absorbs shortwave infrared light, but reflects near infrared and green light. Clouds made of water droplets (not ice crystals) reflect all three wavelengths of light similarly, and are white. Forests and other vegetation reflect near infrared more strongly than shortwave infrared and green light, and appear green. Dark gray areas are lightly vegetated lava flows, 30 to 350 years old.

The video from the ground was captured by Klaus Dorschfeldt, a videographer and webmaster at Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.

In an update today on the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Vocanology website, a fourth episode of lava fountains was reported. “Like the previous paroxysms, this event produced fountains and lava and an ash cloud that has shifted to the northern sector of the volcano.”

If you want to keep updated on what Mt. Etna is doing, there’s a webcam where you can watch the eruptions live.

Source: NASA’s Earth Observatory

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Nancy_A and and Instagram at and https://www.instagram.com/nancyatkinson_ut/

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