'Gateway to Hell': Volcano Caught Spewing Lava in Satellite Image

erta ale volcanic activity
The Landsat 8 satellite captured infrared hot spots representing two distinct lava flows on the volcano. (Image credit: Joshua Stevens/ NASA Earth Observatory)

Known as the "smoking mountain" and the "gateway to hell," Ethiopia's most active volcano is spilling large amounts of lava, and a NASA satellite recently snapped a photo of the eruption.

On Jan. 26, Landsat 8, a satellite operated by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, captured some of the volcano's activity in a natural color and infrared composite image. The satellite image shows infrared hot spots representing two distinct lava flows. Plumes of volcanic gases and steam are rising from the lava lakes, according to NASA's Earth Observatory.

Erta Ale is a shield volcano located in Africa's Danakil (or Afar) Depression, where three tectonic plates are separating, triggering volcanic activity along the seams. The broad, rounded volcano with gently sloping sides has an active lava lake at its caldera — the basin-shaped depression that forms after an eruption — but new volcanic activity has been reported on its southeast flank. [The 11 Biggest Volcanic Eruptions in History]

New fissures — cracks at the volcano's surface from which lava erupts — opened up on Jan. 21, according to reports posted by Volcano Discovery. The volcano-tracking website also noted that at least one of Erta'Ale's lava lakes has seen its lava levels grow, leading to overflows and spattering, which occurs during eruptions.

Original article on Live Science.

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Kacey Deamer
Live Science Staff Writer

Kacey Deamer is a journalist for Live Science, covering planet earth and innovation. She has previously reported for Mother Jones, the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press, Neon Tommy and more. After completing her undergraduate degree in journalism and environmental studies at Ithaca College, Kacey pursued her master's in Specialized Journalism: Climate Change at USC Annenberg. Follow Kacey on Twitter.