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Mount Etna’s Fiery Eruptions Are Visible From Space

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet captured an image of the volcano’s glowing lava

Mount Etna's glowing lava flow can be spotted at bottom left. (ESA/NASA)
smithsonian.com

Since it began rumbling in February, Italy’s Mount Etna has been periodically erupting with forceful bursts of lava. These eruptions are so powerful, in fact, that they are visible some 250 miles above the Earth.

As Matt Wall reports for Space, astronaut Thomas Pesquet captured an image of Mount Etna from his perch inside the International Space Station. Pesquet, who is an astronaut with the European Space Agency, posted the image to Twitter on Tuesday. “The volcano is currently erupting,” he wrote, “and the molten lava is visible from space, at night!”

In the right-hand corner of the image, you can see a cluster of lights from the city of Catania, which is located near Mount Etna. The left-hand corner of the image is dark, with the exception of a few glowing streaks. These streaks, Pesquet explained in his Twitter post, are rivers of lava slithering down the mountain.

A snapshot of an earlier eruption was captured by the European Space Agency’s Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite on March 16—the same day that 10 people were injured by an unexpected blast from the volcano.

Mount Etna is the tallest volcano in Europe, with a looming height of 10,000 feet. It is also one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Etna was relatively quiet last year, according to Erik Klemeti of Wired. But the volcano has been punctuating 2017 with beautiful, terrifying eruptions that have transfixed people around the world—and in space.

Etna_erupts.jpg
A photo of a March 16 eruption, captured by the European Space Agency's Sentinel-2A satellite. The snow around the mountain has been processed in blue, to distinguish it from clouds. (Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by ESA)
About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer is based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media's Women in the World.

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