Mt. Sakurajima Unleashes Its Fury with Lava and LightningS

As if spewing molton lava wasn't injury enough, volcanoes can also generate lightning strikes. In this apocalyptic image taken by Martin Rietze, we see Sakurajima Volcano doing just that — and in extremely vivid detail.

Rietze's photograph is reprinted here with permission.

Sakurajima is an active composite volcano located in Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyūshū, Japan. Back in 1914, its lava flows caused the former island to be connected with the Osumi Penisula.

In terms of the lightning, Rietze told io9 that, "In principle this is the same static discharge as with a thunderstorm, but caused only by very fast, very fine grained volcanic ash."

Indeed, this is what NASA had to say about the extraordinary phenomenon:

Why lightning occurs even in common thunderstorms remains a topic of research, and the cause of volcanic lightning is even less clear. Surely, lightning bolts help quench areas of opposite but separated electric charges. One hypothesis holds that catapulting magma bubbles or volcanic ash are themselves electrically charged, and by their motion create these separated areas. Other volcanic lightning episodes may be facilitated by charge-inducing collisions in volcanic dust. Lightning is usually occurring somewhere on Earth, typically over 40 times each second.