The eruption at Mount Mayon in the Philippines looks like that volcano you drew as a kid.
The perfect symmetrical cone has sent lava flying more than a quarter of a mile into the sky before dribbling down the volcano’s flanks. Ash clouds have climbed even higher, reaching nearly two miles above the cone.
On Thursday, the European Space Agency released new satellite views of the mountain doing its thing. And I gotta say, lava from space is pretty amazing.
The images come courtesy of the Sentinel-2 satellites, which have high-resolution cameras that can sample the Earth in 13 flavors of spectral bands. In the GIF above, there are three images for your viewing pleasure. The first shows things in natural, which is how things look to the naked eye. The second uses the shortwave infrared band sensor, which captures the glow of hot things like wildfires or in this case, the river of lava bubbling from the cone down Mayon’s side.
Finally, the false color image reveals the true damage Mayon’s eruption has already exacted on the landscape. Red areas show healthy vegetation. The darker parts of the image show where lava and pyroclastic flows—a scorching slurry of lava, ash, and gas that can roar down volcanoes—have gashed the landscape.
More than 82,000 have fled from the volcano’s shadow as lava has now spread across more than two miles of the landscape. The alert level remains high and volcanologists have warned we could be in for more dangerous fireworks for months. That makes getting close to take photos a perilous activity. But from space, it’s a whole different story.
The images are reminder of the powerful natural forces that shape our planet and also the human ingenuity that allows us to see them from the cold comfort of space. All that said, it’d be nice if Mount Mayon would chill out so people could make it home.