Lightning crackles over Japan on Friday as ash and lava erupt from Shinmoedake peak, one of the calderas of the Kirishima volcano complex.
Shinmoedake began erupting Wednesday, coating nearby villages and farms with ash and prompting authorities to ask for voluntary evacuations within a 1.2-mile (2-kilometer) radius.
Volcanic lightning is still a mystery, though it may be that electrically charged silica—part of magma—interacts with the atmosphere when it flies out of a volcano, Steve McNutt of the Alaska Volcano Observatory told National Geographic News in February 2010.
A "tentacle" of lightning stretches over Japan in a long-exposure picture taken Thursday of the ash plume rising from the Kirishima volcano complex.
Kirishima is a grouping of about 20 volcanic peaks on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu (map). The site featured in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, serving as the secret base of the main villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Although the complex is often active, Wednesday's eruption is the strongest recorded atKirishima since 1959, ABC News reports.
Photograph from Takaharu/Reuters
Volcanic Ash Adrift
A dense plume of ash rises and spreads from Japan's Shinmoedake peak on Thursday.
The Japan Meteorological Agency raised its volcano alert level Wednesday and warned people living near the peak to evacuate. But agency volcanologist Sei Iijima told ABC News that he doesn't think the eruption is a sign of bigger things to come.
"You can never say never with a volcano," Iijima said. "But the lack of magma movement beneath the surface leads us to believe that this activity won't lead to a large-scale eruption."
A man in the town of Takaharu snaps a picture Thursday of ash rising from Japan's Shinmoedake peak, about 7 miles (11 kilometers) away. The town hosts an evacuation center for people who left villages closer to the peak that were littered with volcanic debris.
Built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the GOSAT spacecraft measures concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane, two major greenhouse gases. The false-color picture shows the volcano's plume spreading southeast.