An astronaut's photo of the Raikoke volcano erupting on June 22, 2019
© NASA
An astronaut's photo of the Raikoke volcano erupting on June 22, 2019.
The volcano sat dormant for almost a century. Then at 4 a.m. last Saturday, it awoke.

In striking photos captured by satellites and astronauts on the International Space Station, smoke billows from the volcano on Raikoke, northeast of Japan. The uninhabited island saw its first volcanic eruption since 1924.

The photos released this week by NASA show volcanic plumes that rarely rise from the stratovolcano, which is almost a half-mile wide and 650 feet deep.

Raikoke is a tiny island of not even 2 square miles in the Sea of Okhotsk and has been under Russia's control since World War II.

The eruption consisted of at least nine explosions and lasted into the evening, according to the Smithsonian Institution's Global Volcanism Program.

The ash plumes containing large amounts of sulfur dioxide rose as high as 42,700 feet, or 8 miles. Lightning was detected in the plumes as they drifted east and northeast, the report said.


By the next day, barely any ash remained visible to satellites, according to the NASA Earth Observatory.

"What a spectacular image. It reminds me of the classic Sarychev Peak astronaut photograph of an eruption in the Kuriles from about 10 years ago," said Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech.

Before the eruption in 1924, the Raikoke volcano hadn't erupted since 1778, according to NASA.