Gallery: Incredible photos of volcanic lightning

Credit: Martin Rietze

At DVICE, we often get so caught up admiring the awe of space that we forget that there are places right here on Earth with equal amounts of mystery and wonder. In January, Japan's Sakurajima volcano erupted, tossing molten lava bombs and lightning everywhere. Luckily for us, photographer Martin Rietze was on hand to document the incredible eruption, capturing these stunning volcanic lightning pictures in the process.

There's no conclusive reason as to why volcanoes sometimes produce lightning while they're erupting (although there are some hypotheses), but according to NASA:

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.

Rietze's volcanic lightning photo (above) was so good, NASA made it yesterday's "Astronomy Picture of the Day." We've compiled all of Rietze's volcanic lightning pics in the gallery below, including one that shows a full moon just above all the action.

Martin Rietze, via Spoon & Tamago

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