Stunning Satellite Photo Captures Mount Vesuvius Peeking Through a Hole in the Clouds

In this image captured on January 2 by the Landsat 8 satellite, Mount Vesuvius is clearly visible through a circular hole in the clouds. (Image credit: Joshua Stevens/Landsat/NASA Earth Observatory)

One of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, Mount Vesuvius, appears to “peek up” into the sky through an eerie circular hole in the clouds in this striking satellite image.

The Operational Land Imager aboard the Landsat-8 satellite took the photo, which was released Jan. 10 by NASA’s Earth Observatory. The volcano’s summit caldera, a large bowl-shaped depression that forms when a volcano erupts and collapses, is clearly visible in the new image, as is a section of the large mountain range to the north, which is a remnant of Mount Somma, an ancient volcano that once stood in the same place as Mount Vesuvius, before the newer volcano’s cone grew from its center.

Mount Vesuvius is a stratovolcano, which means that its cone is built from the accumulation of layers of lava and ash from previous eruptions. It is part of the Campania Volcanic Arc, a chain of volcanoes in Italy that sits on a tectonic plate boundary, where the African plate subducts beneath the Eurasian plate. It’s made up of multiple active, dormant and extinct volcanoes, both on land and underwater, including Mount Etna in Sicily, which began erupting again in February 2021, Live Science previously reported.

Related: 10 Times Volcanoes Blew Our Heads Off In 2021

The most famous eruption of Vesuvius simultaneously destroyed and preserved the Roman city of Pompeii, as well as the neighboring city of Herculaneum, in AD 79. However, lava flows from its most recent eruption in 1944 destroyed the nearby town of San Sebastiano. . In total, Mount Vesuvius has had eight major eruptions in the last 17,000 years, based on geological analysis of the lava layers surrounding it, according to the Earth Observatory.

Despite remaining calm since its last eruption, Mount Vesuvius is still classified as an active volcano and occasionally experiences tremors due to underground seismic activity and gas emission from its summit. It is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes on the planet because any future eruption has the potential to destroy Naples, an Italian city located 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) northwest of the volcano, which is home to more than 3 million people.

This wider view from the Landsat 8 satellite shows how conspicuous the Mount Vesuvius volcano pokes through the white clouds in Italy. (Image credit: Joshua Stevens/Landsat/NASA Earth Observatory)

In 2011, a study published in the journal Nature described Mount Vesuvius as “Europe’s ticking time bomb.”

The Landsat-8 satellite responsible for capturing the image is run by both NASA and the United States Geological Survey.

Originally published on Live Science.

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