Minimize Pleiades captures the birth of a new island

This image from the Pleiades satellite, acquired 19 January 2015, shows a new island that has formed from the eruption of the Hunga Tonga underwater volcano, in Tonga.

Hunga Tonga is located between two small islands in the Tonga archipelago; Hunga Tonga and Hunga Ha'apai. This region is located within the "Ring of Fire", an area of the Pacific Ocean which experiences a great deal of seismic activity. As such, activity has been recorded at the volcano for centuries, and even plays a role in Tongan mythology.

The most recent activity began on 19 December 2014 and the eruption continued into January 2015. Steam, ash and nitrogen and phosphorus erupted from the ocean, providing a hazard for local air traffic. Underwater, the volcano was pushing up rocks, wet ash and cooling magma which built up above the volcano. This build-up lead to the discovery of a new island between the existing islands on 16 January, formed around the crater of the volcano. The 1 kilometre wide island, composed mostly of ash, was connected to Honga Ha'apai. The eruption had also stripped the two neighbouring islands of all of their vegetation.

This new island is not expected to last for long, however, and geologists expect it erode within several months due to its weak composition.

View the full resolution image and an image comparison showing the location before and after the eruption.

Credit: Pleiades © CNES 2015 - Distribution: Airbus Defence and Space, all rights reserved

Hunga Tonga volcanic island


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