Russian eruption triggers volcanic sunsets
A tremendous eruption by Russia's Sarychev volcano, in the Kuril Islands, on June 12 is causing strange and beautiful violet and lavender sunsets around the northern hemisphere this week. The astronauits aboard the International Space Station shot some amazing video of the eruption as they flew over.
The sunset colors occur when fine particles of ash and sulphur dioxide blasted into the stratosphere by the eruption begin to scatter blue light. Mixed with the reddish colors of a normal sunset, they produce the purplish hue.
Photographers in northern countries have been taking remarkable pictures of the sunsets. I'm not sure whether the particulates have made it as far south as Maryland, but it's worth watching the sunsets this week.
In addition to the unusual colors, some photos show high clouds, bright yellow bands called a "twilight arch," and tall crepuscular rays fanning out from the western horizon. Here is a gallery showing some of these phenomena.
The eruption on the remote island in the Kuril chain northeast of Japan smothered half the island in lava. Here (below) is a photo of the island, snapped today by NASA's Terra Earth-observing satellite. The gray color on the northwestern side is lava. The red in the false-color image is actually green vegetation.
For a comparison shot, showing what the island looked like before the eruption, click here.