After 33 years without a peep, the highest volcano in the Galapagos began belching hot magma in May. The eruption was pretty badass on its own, but a new NASA photo, digitally altered to look as if rivers of black lava are streaming down a red mountainside, makes it look like it occurred in an otherworldly hell.

At over 5,000 feet tall, Wolf is a massive shield volcano located atop Isabela Island in the Galapagos. Together with hundreds of other volcanoes, it comprises part of the Ring of Fire, the geologically-active border of the Pacific and Nazca tectonic plates that’s responsible for 75 percent of all volcanic eruptions and roughly 90 percent of all earthquakes. From late May to early June, an explosive eruption at Wolf sent plumes gases and ash some 50,000 feet into the sky, and lava bubbled down the volcano’s eastern and southeastern slopes.


It was one of the largest recent eruptions in the chain of volcanically-active islands that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution. Isabela holds the world’s only population of pink iguanas, and while the eruption initially raised concerns about the safety of the endemic wildlife, so far, key habitats don’t appear to be affected.

Several days after the action had subsided, NASA snapped a closeup of the scene using the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on the Earth-orbiting Terra satellite, which captures data in visible to thermal infrared wavelengths. The false color images shown here combine near IR and visible light, with vegetated areas appearing in red and lava appearing charcoal or black.

It’s amazing how a little image editing can make a perfectly natural event feel so alien.


[NASA Earth Observatory]

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Images via NASA


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