Mount Etna spews smoke and ash over Italy as it erupts

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Mount Etna, located on the isle of Sicily, has been showing signs of activity for weeks, but on February 16 it truly burst into life. A huge burst of lava and ash was ploughed into the sky as one of the planet’s most active volcanoes woke up. Following the initial burst, the volcano then erupted again just 48 hours later.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Earth observing satellite Copernicus Sentinel-2 spotted the second blast on February 18 and has now provided the images to ground control.

In the image, a huge red band of lava can be seen spewing 1,300 metres down the side of the volcano.

The ESA said: “This image, captured yesterday 18 February 2021 at 09:40 GMT by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, has been processed using the mission’s shortwave-infrared band to show the lava flow in bright red.

“After Etna’s powerful eruption on Tuesday 16 February, the volcano produced another spectacular display of fire – with tall lava fountains shooting into the night sky, reaching heights of around 700m.

“The first eruption caused large lava flows to descend eastwards into the Valle del Bove, travelling for approximately 4 km, but the second major explosion on Thursday 18 caused the lava also to run for about 1.3 km down the volcano’s southern flanks.

“Ash from the eruptions covered the city of Catania and authorities have been monitoring developments in the nearby towns at the base of the volcano, including Linguaglossa, Fornazzo and Milo.

“The eruption also forced the temporary closure of Sicily’s Catania Airport, which often happens when the volcano is active.”

As of February 19, the volcano is still showing signs of activity, according to monitoring service Volcano Discovery.

Lava flows are continuing to flow down the side of Mt Etna, with the ESA’s satellite data proving valuable.

The space agency continued: “Satellite data can be used to detect the slight signs of change that may foretell an eruption.

“Once an eruption begins, optical and radar instruments can capture the various phenomena associated with it, including lava flows, mudslides, ground fissures and earthquakes.”

At 3,329 metres tall, Mt Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe.

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Etna is recognised as one of the most active volcanoes in the world with an almost constant rate of activity.

Etna has been restless and aggressive for millennia, with its first confirmed eruption occurring around 6000 BC, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

The volcano is constantly shifting and bubbling, with around three million people living under its shadow, within a 62-mile radius.

Etna, sitting on the east coast of Sicily, is the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps.

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