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Stunning Photo: Mount Etna's Lava Snakes Through Snow

Mount Etna
Lava snakes down the snow-covered slopes of Mount Etna in this natural-color satellite image snapped Dec. 13, 2013. (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Winter brings cooling snows to Italy's fiery Mount Etna, where tourists flock to ski resorts below the volcano's belching craters.

On Dec. 13, NASA's Landsat 8 satellite snapped lava winding down Etna's snowy slopes — the aftermath of a Dec. 2 eruption. In the image, volcanic gas puffed from Etna's New Southeast Crater, the source of spectacular lava fountains seen in recent months from nearby villages, according to NASA's Earth Observatory.

The volcano erupted again on Dec. 14, the day after the satellite caught the fresh mix of fire and ice. Mount Etna, on the island of Sicily, is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, spouting ash, gas and lava several times a year. The burst of activity forced the closure of Sicily's Catania and Comiso airports, according to news reports.

On Dec. 15, new vents opened on a cone at Etna's New Southeast Crater, fountaining lava into the air, according to Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV). Huge bursting magma bubbles and loud blasts rattled windows several miles (tens of kilometers) away.

Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us OurAmazingPlanet @OAPlanet, Facebook and Google+. Original article at LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet.

Becky Oskin
Contributing Writer
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master's degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor's degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.