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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Vulcan Is an Angry God. A Very, Very Angry God.

By Phil Plait

On April 22, 2015, the Chilean volcano Calbuco erupted, providing the most dramatic and awe-inspiring photographs I’ve ever seen of such an event.

On that day, photographer Martin Heck was right on the scene, by happenstance taking time-lapse footage on the neighboring Osorno volcano. When Calbuco went off, he hurriedly set up and shot video that is, no exaggeration, some of the best I have ever seen of any volcanic eruption ever.

Seriously. Make this full screen and high-definition. It’ll blow your socks off.

Wow. There’s a 4K version of this there, too.

Even better, there were no reported deaths or injuries, despite the huge scale of the eruption. It lasted for well over an hour, and launched a plume 10 kilometers into the sky.

Oh, that plume. The superheated ash and gas are buoyant, so they rise rapidly in a column from the volcano’s vent. The cloud cools as it rises and stops rising when it reaches an altitude where its density equals that of the surrounding air. However, the plume below is still pumping material into that spot, so the cooler material spreads out, forming the mushroom cloud shape. Once the eruption stops, the winds sweep the column to one side.

On top of that, the eruption occurred near sunset, so the low Sun illuminated the cloud from the side, adding more drama. The Sun reddens as it sets, and the ash in the air scatters blue light away, making the cloud appear an unearthly red. At the very end of the video, you can see lightning erupt in the cloud, the result of huge static charges that build up when the sharp, glassy ash particles rub against each other in the turbulent rising column, then suddenly discharge their colossal energy.

This is one of nature’s most impressive terrestrial events, and it unfolds here for you to watch in all its terrifying glory.

You can see more of Heck’s amazing work at his site, Timestorm Films.

Tip o’ the caldera to Joe Hanson at It’s Okay to Be Smart.

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