Good timing and little luck is all it takes to capture an amazing video of one of nature’s most fearsome events: a volcanic eruption.
The Kuril Islands, found off Russia’s Pacific coast, are a volcanic archipelago — and Sarychev Peak is among the most active of all the volcanic mountains there.
Sarychev has erupted 16 times since 1760, and its most recent eruption was just five years ago, in June 2009.
Luckily, the International Space Station was passing right overhead as the volcano spewed clouds of ash into the sky and was able to capture a series of images, which NASA’s Earth Observatory later processed into a mind-blowing animation. You can see the plume of ash rising up from the crater, and the movement over a few seconds of images makes it look like a 3D image.
Check out a clip from the animation below:
NASA posted the full animation on its Facebook page, as shown below.
One interesting phenomenon captured by the space station is the round hole in the clouds above the volcano, through which you can see the plume. NASA has offered several explanations, after the image — originally published in June 2009 — sparked debate among meteorologists, geoscientists, and volcanologists. One explanation is that the hole could have nothing to do with the volcano at all: sometimes when clouds form above the ocean and then drift over an island, moist air is forced upward and the clouds start to evaporate, leaving an open space.
But the volcano could also have caused the hole in one of two ways. The shockwave from the eruption could have caused a disruption in the clouds, creating an opening. Or, as the ash rose, air flowed down the sides of the plume, warming as it descended and causing the clouds around it to evaporate.
The true explanation may remain a mystery, but the images remain an awe-inspiring reminder of Mother Nature’s power.
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