A fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station allowed the astronauts this striking view (click “more” to see the image) of Sarychev Volcano (Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009.
Sarychev Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Island chain, and it is located on the northwestern end of Matua Island. Prior to June 12, the last explosive eruption occurred in 1989, with eruptions in 1986, 1976, 1954, and 1946 also producing lava flows.
Ash from the multi-day eruption has been detected 2,407 kilometers east-southeast and 926 kilometers west-northwest of the volcano, and commercial airline flights are being diverted away from the region to minimize the danger of engine failures from ash intake.
This detailed astronaut photograph is exciting to volcanologists because it captures several phenomena that occur during the earliest stages of an explosive volcanic eruption. The main column is one of a series of plumes that rose above Matua Island on June 12.
The plume appears to be a combination of brown ash and white steam. The vigorously rising plume gives the steam a bubble-like appearance. The eruption cleared a circle in the cloud deck.
The clearing may result from the shockwave from the eruption or from sinking air around the eruption plume: as the plume rises, air flows down around the sides like water flowing off the back of a surfacing dolphin. As air sinks, it tends to warm and expand; clouds in the air evaporate.
on 25/06/2009 9:43pm
up does the cloud go? Planes are being diverted could this also damage the low flying space station or satellites further out in orbit?
on 25/06/2009 10:00pm
No, not even close… the dust won’t escape the atmosphere…even if debris could escape gravity would pull it back down again.
on 25/06/2009 8:17pm
Wow what a view.. isn’t that just beautiful – nature a work.. that a site very few would get to see from the top! Love it.. thanks for sharing this