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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Desktop Project Part 4: Underwater volcano in teal

By Phil Plait

[Over the past few weeks, I've collected a metric ton of cool pictures to post, but somehow have never gotten around to actually posting them. Sometimes I was too busy, sometimes too lazy, sometimes they just fell by the wayside... but I decided my computer's desktop was getting cluttered, and I'll never clean it up without some sort of incentive. I've therefore made a pact with myself to post one of the pictures with an abbreviated description every day until they're gone, thus cleaning up my desktop, showing you neat and/or beautiful pictures, and making me feel better about my work habits. Enjoy.]

I love pictures of volcanoes taken from Earth-observing satellites. I've posted lots of 'em, but I don't think I've seen one quite like this:

That is an underwater volcano that's been erupting since October of 2011. This picture, taken by the Earth Observing-1 satellite on February 10, 2012, shows the result. The teal water is sea water mixed with volcanic material swept around by the current. This volcano is located just offshore of El Hierro, the southwestern most of the volcanic Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco.

In case you were thinking those colors aren't real, then take a look at this footage shot from a helicopter circling the volcano.

Yeah, those colors are real. Wow.

As you might expect, the volcano is growing. The peak is 210 meters (690 feet) above the sea floor, but only about 120 meters (390 feet) below the ocean surface. In one month it rose 10 meters! If it keeps erupting like this, then it won't be too much longer before maps of the Canary Islands will have to be appended...

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data

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