Mount Etna is erupting and a satellite caught some hot views of the lava-spewing action

By Amanda Kooser


This ESA satellite view shows Mount Etna's lava flow highlighted in infrared, making it appear bright red and orange. The image is from Feb. 21, 2021.

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2021), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Mount Etna in Italy is infamous throughout history and modern times for its eruptions. The highly active volcano kicked up a fresh eruption last week and a European Space Agency satellite sent back some extraordinary views from space.

The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission has been tracking Etna's latest outburst. Dramatic images released by ESA highlight the lava flow in infrared, which makes it appear to pop out in fiery colors. 

ESA's view of Etna from Sunday is a detailed top-down look showing a trailing cloud of ash, two main lava flows and fluffy white clouds in the vicinity. The volcano spewed ash onto the nearby city of Catania. 


ESA's satellite view from Feb. 18 shows two major lava flows from the eruption of Mount Edna. The image has been processed to highlight the infrared view of the lava.

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2021), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

In a statement Friday, ESA described the volcano's Feb. 16 eruption as "powerful," with lava fountains shooting into the night sky and reaching heights of 2,300 feet (700 meters). 

The initial blowout sent lava east down the mountain, while a second major explosion a couple of days later generated a lava flow to the south. Both stretches are visible in the satellite images.

Satellites have become invaluable tools for monitoring volcanoes and the impact of large eruptions. "Once an eruption begins, optical and radar instruments can capture the various phenomena associated with it, including lava flows, mudslides, ground fissures and earthquakes," ESA said.   

The views from the ground have also been eye-opening. A US naval group in Europe tweeted a photo of the huge plume on the day the eruption began.

Volcano alerts site Volcano Discovery has been tracking Etna and the seismic activity associated with the volcano. The data suggests it may not be done yet with this current round of eruptions and spectacular lava fountains.

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