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Space station astronauts snap amazing photos of Alaskan volcanic eruption

Pavlof Volcano has been erupting for over a week, releasing a humongous plume of ash, steam, and smoke visible from the International Space Station. The eruption has quieted down, but seismic data suggests that it's not over.


Space station astronauts captured this picture of Pavlof Volcano on Saturday.

Courtesy of the ISS Expedition 36 crew / NASA

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Astronauts on the International Space Station captured jaw-dropping pictures of a volcanic eruption last Saturday. Since then, the volcano has been hidden from sight, shrouded in thick clouds.

Pavlof Volcano has been belching ash and spewing lava since May 13, when tremors and rising surface temperatures gave way to fountains of molten rock bursting from the volcano's north flank.

When that lava hit ice and snow, it created explosive steam clouds that could be seen for dozens of miles – and photographed from space. The steam, ash, and gas plumes have climbed over 20,000 feet into the sky, and left a grey streak stretching for a hundred miles.

Prior to last week, Pavlof hadn't erupted since 2007.

Is it over?

Pavlof has been playing it cool for the past few days, reports the Alaska Volcano Observatory, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last month.

Though the ash eruptions have disrupted local air travel, the violence seems to have subsided for now, with a more relaxed release of ash and lava continuing steadily. Even through the clouds hiding Pavlof from sight, satellites can measure high surface temperatures indicating that the lava is still flowing.

After about a week of steady seismic rumbles, the shaking calmed down on Tuesday morning and hasn't restarted, though a huge seismic blast this morning suggests that Pavlof had another volcanic explosion – but through the clouds, it's hard to know just what or where.

The scientists at Alaska Volcano Observatory have the volcano threat level set at "Watch," which is one step down from the highest level, "Warning." But they caution that massive explosions – like the one that created that giant, 20,000-foot plume – can occur without warning.


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