A fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station allowed the astronauts this striking view of Sarychev Volcano (Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. Sarychev Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Island chain, and it is located on the northwestern end of Matua Island. Prior to June 12, the last explosive eruption occurred in 1989, with eruptions in 1986, 1976, 1954, and 1946 also producing lava flows. Ash from the multi-day eruption has been detected 2,407 kilometers east-southeast and 926 kilometers west-northwest of the volcano, and commercial airline flights are being diverted away from the region to minimize the danger of engine failures from ash intake.
Even cooler–NASA put together an animation as the ISS went over the eruption. This gives a nice sense of the three dimensional nature of the ash cloud. What a beautiful image! Planet Earth, our restless planet.
Here is an excellent link to the movie made from ISS pictures. (With all the money spent why a high resolution digital recording system was not included on the ISS, perhaps a LANDSAT type imaging system? What a lost opportunity.)