Plume from Mount Pagan the larger of two volcanoes on Pagan Island, has been active for more than three years. On October 16, 2012, a plume of steam and other volcanic gases streamed from the volcano. This natural-color satellite image of the eruption was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite.
Pagan Island is located in the Marianas archipelago, in the western Pacific Ocean. The island’s 53 residents were permanently evacuated following a strong eruption in 1981. Ever since, scientists have monitored the volcano via satellite, through reports from passing ships and aircraft, and infrequent research expeditions. The U.S. Geological Survey provides weekly updates on Pagan’s activity.

Pagan is located about 320 kilometers (200 mi) north of Saipan, the main island of the Northern Mariana Islands. With an area of 47.23 km2 (18.24 sq mi), it is the fourth largest island of the Northern Marianas. The island is a double island consisting of two stratovolcanoes joined by a narrow strip of land with a width of only 600 meters (660 yd). The southern volcano 18.075°N 145.725°E, is 548 m (1,798 ft) high with a caldera approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) in diameter, consisting of four craters joined together. Although several fumaroles were active in 1992, the southern volcano last erupted in 1864. The northern volcano, also known as Mount Pagan, 18.13°N 145.8°E, has a height of 570 m (1,870 ft). The volcano is in the center of a caldera with a diameter of approximately 6 km (3.7 mi), and eruptions have been documented in the 1820s, 1872–1873, 1925 and 1981–85.

Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Robert Simmon.

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