Spectacular Image of Mount Vesuvius Captured by ISS Astronaut

An astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) has captured a spectacular photo of Mount Vesuvius—one of the world's most famous volcanoes—from an altitude of around 250 miles above Earth.

On Thursday, Italian Luca Parmitano from the European Space Agency—commander of ISS Expedition 61—posted the image, which shows Vesuvius rising up above the Bay of Naples.

"Millennia of history and uncountable stories surround one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, Mount Vesuvius," Parmitano wrote in the post.

The volcano—which stands at more than 4,000 feet high—is infamous for its catastrophic eruption in 79 A.D., which destroyed the Roman settlements of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae.

This eruption spat volcanic rock, gas and ashes high up into the atmosphere, and released around 100,000 times the thermal energy given off by the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945.

The event was witnessed by Pliny the Younger, who produced the only surviving account of the disaster. He described seeing a huge cloud that shot up to a "great height" and spread out like a tree into "branches."

Millenni di Storia e innumerevoli storie, circondano uno dei vulcani più famosi al mondo, il Vesuvio.

Millennia of history, and uncountable stories, surround one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, Mount Vesuvius. #MissionBeyond pic.twitter.com/lKNDnzJ0qF

— Luca Parmitano (@astro_luca) January 16, 2020

Volcanologists now refer to explosive eruptions that produce high-altitude columns of debris and cover large areas with ash as Plinian eruptions. In fact, it is estimated that at points during the 79 A.D. eruption, the column of ash streaming out of the volcano reached up to 20 miles into the sky. Around one cubic mile of ash was produced in around 19 hours, according to Oregon State University.

Since 79 A.D., Vesuvius has erupted around three dozen times, including a large explosive eruption that killed around 4,000 people in 1631. The most recent eruption took place in 1944 during the Second World War.

Mount Vesuvius
An image of Mount Vesuvius captured from the International Space Station. NASA/Luca Parmitano

Since then, the volcano has not erupted, but it is still considered to be active. Furthermore, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because the region around it is very densely populated compared to other volcanoes. In fact, there are an estimated 600,000 people in the immediate danger zone.

Parmitano is one of six crew members currently onboard the International Space Station. He is sharing the space with astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, who completed the first all-female spacewalk last year.