A NASA satellite has captured an image of a volcano erupting in Ethiopia, known as “the gateway to hell” for its continuously burning lava lake.
The satellite that took the image was Landsat 8, operated by NASA and the US Geological Survey, which snapped the picture on January 26 this year. It shows the volcano called Erta Ale, found near the border of Ethiopia and Eritrea.
It’s located in Africa’s Danakil (or Afar) Depression, where three tectonic plates are tearing themselves apart, according to NASA. Erta Ale is one of the most active volcanoes along the seams of the separating plates, with a lava lake in its caldera (central crater) that has persisted for decades.
This particular volcano is interesting for another reason though. It carries the nickname of “the gateway to hell”, because of the lava lake that sits in its caldera (crater). The lava continuously glows because it’s sitting on top of a hot spot, an upwelling of superheated mantle material.
Recently, new fissures were spotted opening up about 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the summit of the volcano, spilling large amounts of lava. Another lava lake has overflowed due to changes in the level of its lava. This latest image shows some of this lava spilling out, along with the “smoking mountain” itself.
“This image was captured by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) sensor on Landsat 8 on January 26, 2017,” NASA said. “It is a composite of natural color (OLI bands 4-3-2) and shortwave infrared (OLI band 7). Shortwave infrared light (SWIR) is invisible to the naked eye, but strong SWIR signals indicate increased temperatures. Infrared hot spots representing two distinct lava flows are visible. Plumes of volcanic gases and steam drift from the lava lakes.”
Above, Erta Ale's lave lake. Anastasia Koro/Shutterstock