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Japan's Newborn Volcanic Island Seen from Space (Photo)

The Advanced Land Imager on NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite snapped this image of a newly formed volcanic island in Japan on Dec. 8, 2013. (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

A NASA satellite snapped a photograph of a tiny new island that rose out of the Pacific Ocean a few weeks ago after a volcanic eruption.

A camera aboard the space agency's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image as it passed over the still-steaming black cone on Dec. 8.

Japanese officials have named the new island Niijima. It is located about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of Tokyo in the Bonin Islands, an archipelago that includes the island of Iwo Jima and sits on the western edge of the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a hotbed of seismic and volcanic activity.

The baby island was born on Nov. 20, 2013, when ash and tephra (solid fragments ejected by a volcano) shot into the sky from an underwater volcano, as stunning pictures from the blast show. Niijima's larger neighbor, an island named Nishino-shima, marks the top of a massive submarine volcano, Japanese Coast Guard officials said.

The photo from EO-1 shows that churned-up marine sediments and volcanic materials have discolored the waters around the new island, according to NASA's Earth Observatory.

It was feared that pounding waves would sweep away the islands loose sediments and rocks, causing Niijima to sink back into the ocean. But the fledgling island is apparently getting bigger. Niijima had grown three times its initial size by early December, rising up to 82 feet (25 meters) above sea level and expanding to an area of 13.8 acres (56,000 square meters), according to the Earth Observatory.

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Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and Space.com since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.