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A dramatic plume of smoke and ash reached 13 kilometers (8 miles) into the sky after a volcano erupted in the Pacific ocean. The last time Raikoke Volcano, in the Kuril Islands north of Japan, erupted was in 1924. But it went up with such velocity this week, that astronauts aboard the International Space Station were able to capture a series of stunning pictures of the event from space. The pictures show the plume spreading out into what’s known as the ‘umbrella region’ – where the density of the ash and smoke equalises with the surrounding air and it stops rising. Raikoke is its own uninhabited island, so the eruption didn’t cause any injury or damage on the ground. These events do sometimes pose a threat to aircraft, but the eruption was carefully monitored. And it certainly gave volcanologists something to get excited about. ‘The ring of white puffy clouds at the base of the column might be a sign of ambient air being drawn into the column and the condensation of water vapor,’ explained Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech university in the US. ‘Or it could be a rising plume from interaction between magma and seawater because Raikoke is a small island and flows likely entered the water,’ he said in a post on Nasa’s Earth Observatory portal. The Raikoke eruption produced a concentrated plume of sulfur dioxide (SO2) that separated from the ash and swirled throughout the North Pacific as the plume interacted with a storm in the region. Scientists will continue to study the eruption because, typically, plumes that reach as far up as the stratosphere tend to stick around longer than those that remain in the troposphere.