Capturing eruption from outer space

Front-row seats to a volcano eruption are hard to come by, but as-tronauts aboard the International Space Station, albeit 400km away, got the best seat in the house last Saturday.

From their outer-space vantage point, they captured a seldom seen perspective of the vigorous eruption of Raikoke.

Part of Russia's Kuril Islands chain near northern Japan, Raikoke is an uninhabited volcanic island that has been dormant since 1924.

Last Saturday's eruption shot a mushroom cloud of ash more than 15km into the sky.

Strong winds from the adjacent Sea of Okhotsk carried the silicate-heavy ash cloud east, towards the north Pacific Ocean.

Volcanic ash clouds are highly electrified. Raikoke's ash cloud was no exception, with hundreds of lightning bolts leaping from the supercharged ash above.

Scientists call these lightning barrages "dirty thunderstorms".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2019, with the headline 'Capturing eruption from outer space'. Print Edition | Subscribe