When I first saw this image, I didn’t think too much of it. After all, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a volcanic plume racing through the atmosphere. However, this picture is awesome on so many levels.
First, as part of NASA’s Earth Observatory program, an astronaut in the International Space Station was fortunate to get the timing just right to witness Russia’s Sarychev Peak volcano in the Kuril Islands explode, blasting a huge plume of ash and smoke high into the atmosphere. Second, the conditions on the ground must have been very still, allowing such a huge vertical structure to reach so high. And thirdly, the image captures two amazing features: a condensing cloud of vapour at its peak (the white, smooth cloud) and a shock wave that pushed all the surrounding cloud away from the eruption.
For more on this stunning event, check out Michael Reilly’s great article over at Discovery’s Earth Pub.