A volcanic ash cloud was blasted by lightning during a spectacular eruption on Thursday, lighting up the Japanese night sky with an astonishing show of bright orange lava and white-hot electrical bolts.
The explosive Sakurajima, an active volcano on Japan‘s Kyushu island, erupted this week with plumes of ash rising a more than a mile above the mountain and blending with clouds in the night sky.
In a spellbinding but poorly-understood volcanic phenomenon, a lightning storm broke out above the mountain and lit up the column of ash rising out of the crater.
Volcanic lightning has been spotted hundreds of times across the globe, including in Italy, Iceland and the Philippines, but how and when this happens is less clear.
Scientists believe the lightning may be caused by friction when the ash rushes to the surface of the volcano, making it electrically-charged in a process compared to rubbing a balloon on a jumper.
Sakurajima itself saw the same phenomenon in 2018 during one of its frequent eruptions, which according to NASA have been taking place since at least the eighth century AD.
Fire and fury: Lightning bolts above Sakurajima, an active volcano on Japan’s Kyushu island, which erupted this week with plumes of ash rising a more than a mile above the mountain and blending with clouds in the night sky