Astronauts Spot Kilauea Volcano's Dramatic Plumes from the Space Station

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station can see the plumes of the ongoing volcanic eruption on the Big Island of Hawaii from space, and they shared the sight on Twitter.

Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has been erupting for 35 years. Recently, the volcano's Pu'u 'Ō'ō crater began seeping lava out into the local community after lava levels in the crater started to drop on May 2, according to the U.S.Geological Survey (USGS). Since this outpour began, 18 active volcanic fissureshave opened up, and thousands of local residents have been forced to evacuate the region, according to a new report from CNN.

This volcanic event has become so severe and expansive that astronauts aboard the space station have been able to see the volcanic activity from space, as they've shared on Twitter. Satellite photoshave detailed the ongoing volcanic activity, but now, Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and A.J. (Drew) Feustel have captured their own shocking views of the volcanic plumes from the International Space Station.

See the Latest Updates on Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Eruption

These three crew members fly under the call sign "Hawai'i" — a unique word or phrase used to identify them for communications — which is why they initially had their eyes and cameras focused for the islands. The three crewmembers quickly noticed Kilauea's plumes and shared their views over the weekend. [Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Eruption Spotted from Space (Photos)]

Perhaps it's not surprising that the crew spotted the plumes from space; lava has been reportedly spouting as high as 300 feet (90 meters), with plumes soaring far overhead, according to the USGS on Twitter. With the number of fissures having grown, volcanic activity has stretched across the island.

As of today (May 14), roughly 2,000 people have been evacuated since the beginning of this event, according to the report from CNN. The lava continues to threaten the nearby Puna Geothermal Venture plant and has destroyed countless homes, roads and vehicles.

Arnold said on Twitter that the space station crew is "sending much aloha" — a traditional Hawaiian greeting that holds deep, spiritual significance to the Hawaiian people — to the residents of the islands.

While flyby footage has allowed officials to document, track and tackle this growing volcanic problem, the added footage from astronauts aboard the space station provides additional perspective. Views of the plumes will continue to change, as it is possible that additional fissures could form. USGS officials have even warned that an explosive eruption of "ballistic rocks" could potentially be launched from the top of the volcano, according to the USGS.

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.