Awesome ‘Sideways’ View from Space of the Erupting Kliuchevskoi Volcano

Image taken by astronauts on the International Space Station showing an oblique view of an eruption plume emanating from the Kliuchevskoi volcano on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. Credit: NASA.

We’ve seen some great views from space of erupting volcanoes, like Pavlov, Shiveluch, and Nabro. While most of the views from space look straight down in a in a nadir view, this photo was taken from the International Space Station with an oblique or sideways viewing angle. This provides a three-dimensional-type view, similar to what might be seen from an airplane instead of a flattened view that looks straight down. This image was taken by an astronaut when the ISS was located over a ground position more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) to the southwest of the Kamchatka Peninsula in the far eastern part of Russia. The Kliuchevskoi volcano is just one of 160 volcanoes in this region, with 29 of the 160 being active.

NASA says the plume—likely a combination of steam, volcanic gases, and ash—stretched to the east-southeast due to prevailing winds. The dark region to the north-northwest is likely a product of shadows and of ash settling out. Several other volcanoes are visible in the image, including Ushkovsky, Tolbachik, Zimina, and Udina. To the south-southwest of Kliuchevskoi lies Bezymianny Volcano, which appears to be emitting a small steam plume (at image center).

These volcanic peaks are an eye-catching landmark from orbit. Here’s an image of the same region taken by astronaut Chris Hadfield earlier this year:

Volcanoes of Kamchatka, Russia at dawn, as seen from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/CSA/Chris  Hadfield
Volcanoes of Kamchatka, Russia at dawn, as seen from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/CSA/Chris Hadfield

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Volcanic Blast Forms New Island Near Japan

An erupting undersea volcano forms a new island off the coast of Nishinoshima, a small unihabited island in the southern Ogasawara chain of islands. The image was taken on November 21, 2013 by the Japanese Coast Guard.

A volcanic eruption is creating a tiny new island off the coast of Japan. The Japanese Coast Guard snapped images and video of the eruption taking place, showing the new island being formed. Footage showed heavy smoke, ash and rocks spewing from the volcanic crater. As of this writing, experts say the small island is about 200 meters (660 feet) in diameter. It is located just off the coast of Nishinoshima, a small, uninhabited island in the Ogasawara chain, also known as the Bonin Islands, about about 620 miles (1,000 km) south of Tokyo.

See a video and additional images below.

Only time will tell if the island will remain or if the ocean waters will reclaim it. According to Yahoo News, Japan’s chief government spokesman said they would welcome any new territory.

“This has happened before and in some cases the islands disappeared,” Yoshihide Suga said when asked if the government was planning on naming the new island. “If it becomes a full-fledged island, we would be happy to have more territory.”

An erupting undersea volcano forms a new island, shown by its nearest neighbor, Nishinoshima, a small unihabited island in the southern Ogasawara chain of islands. The image was taken on November 21, 2013 by the Japanese Coast Guard.
An erupting undersea volcano forms a new island, shown by its nearest neighbor, Nishinoshima, a small unihabited island in the southern Ogasawara chain of islands. The image was taken on November 21, 2013 by the Japanese Coast Guard.
This screenshot of Google Maps shows all the volcanoes in the The Japan, Taiwan, Marianas Region. Via Google Maps and the Smithsonian volcano website.
This screenshot of Google Maps shows all the volcanoes in the The Japan, Taiwan, Marianas Region. Via Google Maps and the Smithsonian volcano website.

According to the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program website, the Japan, Taiwan, Marianas Region is a very active region in the Pacific Ring of Fire and most volcanoes in this region “result from subduction of westward-moving oceanic crust under the Asian Plate. In the Izu-Mariana chain, however, the crust to the west is also oceanic, forming more basaltic island arcs (but with volcanoes that are far more explosive than oceanic hotspot volcanoes).”

You can read more about this volcanic region here.

See an extensive gallery of images at Yahoo News.

Ancient ‘Supervolcanoes’ Lurk On Mars And Once Showered Planet In Ash: Study

Oxus Patera, a candidate supervolcano on Mars. The image was created by putting color pictures from Mars Express' High Resolution Stereo Camera on top of digital elevation data it collected. Credit: ESA/Mars Express/Freie Universitat Berlin/Google

Once-active “supervolcanoes” in northern Mars likely spewed ash and dust thousands of miles away, producing powdery deposits noticed by the NASA’s Curiosity and Opportunity rovers closer to the equator, a new study suggests.

The scientists suspect that irregularly shaped craters in Arabia Terra, which is in the northern highlands of Mars, are leftovers of huge volcanoes from eons ago. Until now, those areas weren’t pegged as volcanoes at all.

“Discovering supervolcanic structures fundamentally changes how we view ancient volcanism on Mars,” stated Joseph Michalski, a Mars researcher at the Natural History Museum in London and the Planetary Institute in Tucson, Arizona.

“Many Martian volcanoes are easily recognized from their massive shield-shaped structure, similar to what we see in Hawaii. But these are relatively youthful features on Mars, and we have always wondered where the ancient volcanoes are. It is possible that the most ancient volcanoes were much more explosive and formed structures similar to what we now see in Arabia Terra.”

As some scientists believe that the crust of Mars was thinner than it is now, this would let magma erupt to the surface before it could release gases inside the crust, the team added. The finding also has implications for predicting the ancient atmosphere and looking at habitability.

“If future work shows that supervolcanoes were present more widely on ancient Mars, it would completely change estimates of how the atmosphere formed from volcanic gases, how sediments formed from volcanic ash and how
habitable the surface might have been,” Michalski added.

Be sure to check out the full paper in Nature. Author affiliations include the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona, the London Natural History Museum, and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Sources: Natural History Museum and Nature

A Volcanic View of Mercury

An oblique view of pyroclastic vents on Mercury via MESSENGER

Here on Earth we’re used to seeing volcanoes as towering mountains with steam-belching peaks or enormous fissures oozing lava. But on Mercury volcanic features often take the form of sunken pits surrounded by bright reflective material. They look like craters from orbit but are more irregularly-shaped, and here we have a view from MESSENGER of a cluster of them amidst a rugged landscape that stretches all the way to the planet’s limb.

The image above shows a group of pyroclastic vents on Mercury, located just north and east of the 180-mile (290-km) -wide, double-ringed Rachmaninoff crater. The vents lie in the center of a spread of high-reflectance material, sprayed out by ancient eruptions. This bright blanket of material stands out against Mercury’s surface so well, it has even been spotted in Earth-based observations!

An older vent can be seen at the bottom right, looking like a crater but with non-circular walls. North is to the left.

So why do Mercury’s volcanoes look so different than Earth’s? Planetary scientist David Blewett from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory explains:

“Volcanism on Mercury (and also the Moon) appears to have been dominated by flood lavas, in which large quantities if highly fluid (low-viscosity) magma erupts and flows widely to cover a large area. In this type of eruption, no large ‘volcano’ edifice is constructed,” David wrote in an email. “The lunar maria and many of Mercury’s smooth plains deposits were formed in this manner.”
“On both the Moon and Mercury there are also examples of explosive activity in which eruptions from a vent showered the surroundings with pyroclastic material (volcanic ash),” he added. “The vents and bright pyroclastic halos seen near Rachmaninoff on Mercury are examples, as well as numerous ‘dark mantle deposits’ on the Moon.”
(Do you have a question about Mercury? Check out the MESSENGER Q&A page here.)

The discovery and investigation of vents like these is extremely valuable to scientists, as they provide information on Mercury’s formation, composition, and the nature of volatiles in its interior. (Plus the oblique angle is very cool! Makes you feel like you’re flying along with MESSENGER over Mercury’s surface.)

See below for a wider view of the region and context of the placement of these vents to Rachmaninoff.

MESSENGER image of Rachmaninoff crater obtained in September 2009
MESSENGER image of Rachmaninoff crater obtained in September 2009

See these and more images from Mercury on the MESSENGER website here.

Added 9/24: Want to see a volcanic vent in 3D? Click here.

Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Major Volcanic Eruption Seen on Jupiter’s Moon Io

Voyager 1 acquired this image of Io on March 4, 1971. An enormous volcanic explosion can be seen silhouetted against dark space over Io's bright limb. Credit: NASA/JPL.

Recent observations of Jupiter’s moon Io has revealed a massive volcanic eruption taking place 628,300,000 km (390,400,000 miles) from Earth. Io, the innermost of the four largest moons around Jupiter, is the most volcanically active object in the Solar System with about 240 active regions. But this new one definitely caught the eye of Dr. Imke de Pater, Professor of Astronomy and of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California in Berkeley. She was using the Keck II telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii on August 15, 2013 when it immediately became apparent something big was happening at Io.

“When you are right at the telescope and see the data, this is something you can see immediately, especially with a big eruption like that,” de Pater told Universe Today via phone.

de Pater said this eruption is one of the top 10 most powerful eruptions that have been seen on this moon. “It is a very energetic eruption that covers over a 30 square kilometer area,” she said. “For Earth, that is big, and for Io it is very big too. It really is one of the biggest eruptions we have seen.”

She added the new volcano appears to have a large energy output. “We saw a big eruption in 2001, which was in the Surt region, which is well known as the biggest one anyone has ever seen,” she said. “For this one, the total energy is less but per square meter, it is bigger than the one in 2001, so it is very powerful.”

While Io’s eruptions can’t be seen directly from Earth,infrared cameras on the Keck telescope (looking between 1 and 5 microns) have been able to ascertain there are likely fountains of lava gushing from fissures in the Rarog Patera region of Io, aptly named for a Czech fire deity.

While many regions of Io are volcanically active, de Pater said she’s not been able to find any other previous activity that has been reported in the Rarog Patera area, which the team finds very interesting.

Ashley Davies of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and a member of the observing team told Universe Today that Rarog Patera was identified as a small, relatively innocuous hot spot previously in Galileo PPR data and possibly from Earth, but at a level way, way below what was seen on August 15, and reported in New Scientist.

de Pater and other astronomers will be taking more data soon with Keck and perhaps more telescopes to try and find out more about this massive eruption.

“We never know about eruptions – they can last hours, days months or years, so we have no idea how long it will stay active,” she said, “but we are very excited about it.”

No data or imagery has been released on the new eruption yet since the team is still making their observations and will be writing a paper on this topic.

Scientists think a gravitational tug-of-war with Jupiter is one cause of Io’s intense vulcanism.

Stunning View from Orbit: Dramatic Volcanoes at Dawn

Volcanoes of Kamchatka, Russia at dawn, as seen from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/CSA/Chris Hadfield

A stunning view from orbit! Astronaut Chris Hadfield captured this shot of the volcanoes of Kamchatka in Russia. “Volcanoes look dramatic at dawn,” Hadfield said via Twitter. “They startled me when I spotted them through the lens.”

Note the huge shadows created by the Sun, which is low on the horizon at dawn.

These are just a few of the 160 volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the far eastern part of Russia. 29 of the 160 are active. Thanks to Peter Caltner on Twitter who identified the volcanoes seen here: Tolbachik (at left, in clouds and smoke plume, active presently); Ushkovsky (in the back, right); Kliuchevskoi (right edge, the peak in front). Little ones in the foreground: Udina (left) and Zimina (right).

These jagged peaks are obviously an eye-catching landmark from orbit, as they have been a target of observations before — by Yuri Malenchenko in November of 2012 and by Clay Anderson in December of 2011.

Are Venus’ Volcanoes Still Active?

Artist’s impression of an active volcano on Venus (ESA/AOES)

Incredibly dense, visually opaque and loaded with caustic sulfuric acid, Venus’ atmosphere oppresses a scorched, rocky surface baking in planet-wide 425 ºC (800 ºF) temperatures. Although volcanoes have been mapped on our neighboring planet’s surface, some scientists believe the majority of them have remained inactive — at least since the last few hundreds of thousands of years. Now, thanks to NASA’s Pioneer Venus and ESA’s Venus Express orbiters, scientists have nearly 40 years of data on Venus’ atmosphere — and therein lies evidence of much more recent large-scale volcanic activity.

The last six years of observations by Venus Express have shown a marked rise and fall of the levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) in Venus’ atmosphere, similar to what was seen by NASA’s Pioneer Venus mission from 1978 to 1992.

These spikes in SO2 concentrations could be the result of volcanoes on the planet’s surface, proving that the planet is indeed volcanically active — but then again, they could also be due to variations in Venus’ complex circulation patterns which are governed by its rapid “super-rotating” atmosphere.

“If you see a sulphur dioxide increase in the upper atmosphere, you know that something has brought it up recently, because individual molecules are destroyed there by sunlight after just a couple of days,” said Dr. Emmanuel Marcq of Laboratoire Atmosphères in France, lead author of the paper, “Evidence for Secular Variations of SO2 above Venus’ Clouds Top,” published in the Dec. 2 edition of Nature Geoscience.

“A volcanic eruption could act like a piston to blast sulphur dioxide up to these levels, but peculiarities in the circulation of the planet that we don’t yet fully understand could also mix the gas to reproduce the same result,” added co-author Dr Jean-Loup Bertaux, Principal Investigator for the instrument on Venus Express.

The rise and fall of sulphur dioxide in the upper atmosphere of Venus over the last 40 years, expressed in units of parts per billion by volume. Credits: Data: E. Marcq et al. (Venus Express); L. Esposito et al. (earlier data); background image: ESA/AOES

Because Venus’ dense atmosphere whips around the planet at speeds of 355 km/hour (220 mph), pinpointing an exact source for the SO2 emissions is extremely difficult. Volcanoes could be the culprit, but the SO2 could also be getting churned up from lower layers by variations in long-term circulation patterns.

Read: Venus Has a Surprisingly Chilly Layer

Venus has over a million times the concentration of sulfur dioxide than Earth, where nearly all SO2 is the result of volcanic activity. But on Venus it’s been able to build up, kept stable at lower altitudes where it’s well shielded from solar radiation.

Regardless of its source any SO2 detected in Venus’ upper atmosphere must be freshly delivered, as sunlight quickly breaks it apart. The puzzle now is to discover if it’s coming from currently-active volcanoes… or something else entirely.

“By following clues left by trace gases in the atmosphere, we are uncovering the way Venus works, which could point us to the smoking gun of active volcanism,” said Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s Project Scientist for Venus Express.

Read more on the ESA release here.

Huge Volcano Plume Seen from Space

The Shiveluch volcano as seen by the Aqua satellite on October 6, 2012. Credit: NASA

It’s almost like this volcano has an on/off switch. The Shiveluch Volcano in the northern Russian peninsula of Kamchatka had been quiet, and an earlier image taken by NASA’s Terra satellite (below) at about noon local time (00:00 UTC) on October 6, 2012, showed a quiet volcano with no activity. But just two hours later when the Aqua satellite passed over the area, the volcano had erupted and sent a plume of ash over about 90 kilometers (55 miles). Later, a local volcanic emergency response team reported that the ash plume from Shiveluch reached an altitude of 3 kilometers (9,800 feet) above sea level, and had traveled some 220 kilometers (140 miles) from the volcano summit.

The same volcano seen by the Terra satellite just two hours earlier on the same day. Credit: NASA

Shiveluch is one the biggest and most active volcanoes in this region and rises 3,283 meters (10,771 feet) above sea level. NASA’s Earth Observatory website says Shiveluch is a stratovolcano composed of alternating layers of hardened lava, compacted ash, and rocks ejected by previous eruptions. It has had numerous eruptions the past 200 years, but has been active during much of its life – estimates are the volcano is 60,000 to 70,000 years old.

The beige-colored expanse of rock on the volcano’s southern slopes (visible in both images) is due to an explosive eruption that occurred in 1964. Another eruption started in 1999 and lasted for over 10 years.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

As Seen From Space: Volcanic Eruption Creates New Island in the Red Sea

The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this high-resolution, natural-color images on December 23, 2011 showing an island being formed in the Red Sea. Credit: NASA


Looking for some new lake-front property? Here’s the newest available on the planet. Volcanic activity in the Red Sea that started in mid-December has created what looks like a new island. The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured a high-resolution, natural-color image on December 23, 2011 showing an apparent island where previously there was none. Here, a thick plume of volcanic ash still rises from the new island.

See below for an image from 2007 of the same region.

Satellite image of the same region from October 24, 2007. Credit: NASA

According to the NASA Earth Observatory website, the volcanic activity occurred along the Zubair Group, a collection of small islands off the west coast of Yemen. The islands poke above the sea surface, rising from a shield volcano. This region is part of the Red Sea Rift where the African and Arabian tectonic plates pull apart and new ocean crust regularly forms.

According to news reports, fishermen witnessed lava fountains reaching up to 30 meters (90 feet) tall on December 19.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Satellite Looks Down the Eye of Erupting Nabro Volcano

This false color satellite image shows active lava flows of the Nabro volcano in Eritrea on June 24, 2011. Credit: the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite.


Wow! What an amazing and detailed top-down view of an active volcano! This is the Nabro Volcano, which has been erupting since June 12, 2011. It sits in an isolated region on the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia and satellite remote sensing is currently the only reliable way to monitor the ongoing eruption, according to the NASA Earth Observatory website. The bright red portions of the false-color image (above) indicate hot surfaces. See below for a zoomed-in look. Both images were taken by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite.

This natural-color image shows a close-up view of the volcanic plume and eruption site of the Nabro volcano. Credit: the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite

Robert Simmon of the NASA Earth Observatory website describes the scenes:

Hot volcanic ash glows above the vent, located in the center of Nabro’s caldera. To the west of the vent, portions of an active lava flow (particularly the front of the flow) are also hot. The speckled pattern on upstream portions of the flow are likely due to the cool, hardened crust splitting and exposing fluid lava as the flow advances. The bulbous blue-white cloud near the vent is likely composed largely of escaping water vapor that condensed as the plume rose and cooled. The whispy, cyan clouds above the lava flow are evidence of degassing from the lava.

The natural-color image (lower) shows a close-up view of the volcanic plume and eruption site. A dark ash plume rises directly above the vent, and a short, inactive (cool) lava flow partially fills the crater to the north. A gas plume, rich in water and sulfur dioxide (which contributes a blue tint to the edges of the plume) obscures the upper reaches of the active lava flow. Black ash covers the landscape south and west of Nabro.

Limited reports from the region say that at least 3,500 people and up to 9,000 that have been affected by the eruption, with at least 7 deaths caused by the erupting volcano. The ash plume has also disrupted flights in the region.

For more information see NASA’s Earth Observatory website, and BigThink