Mount Etna continued its spectacular eruptions on Monday into Tuesday with jets of lava reaching a thousand meters into the air.
The eruptions have awed even seasoned volcanologists in recent days with spurts of lava lighting up the Sicilian sky each night.
Some said Monday’s eruption – that continued into the early hours of Tuesday – was the most powerful during its recent burst of activity, with one expert saying an eruption of its kind had not been seen for decades at Etna.
The latest eruption overnight by Europe’s most active volcano petered out on Tuesday morning, according to Italy’s National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology.
It comes as a satellite image was released showing what its deadly rivers of lava look like from space.
For more than a week, Etna has been belching lava, ash and volcanic rocks on a regular basis.
Nearby Catania Airport closed temporarily, and residents of the town of Pedara said it appeared one day last week as if it were raining rocks as a thick blanket of ash covered the town.
Volcanologist Boris Behncke, of the national institute’s Etna observation centre, has followed the latest eruptions with awe.
Writing on the institute’s website, he said that after ‘gifting us moments of suspense’ over the previous nights, Etna finally erupted in a way ‘those of us who have worked in this for decades have rarely seen’.
Referring to the activity overnight, he tweeted on Tuesday: ‘Did I call the 20-21 February paroxysm of Etna ‘incredibly powerful’? Well, its successor, in the night of 22-23 February, was MUCH more powerful.’
So far there have been no reports of damage or injuries.
Dramatic pictures show torrents of molten lava shooting into the air and running down the volcano during the most recent eruption overnight on Tuesday.
The blasts lit up the sky behind nearby Catania, with lava streams visible behind the domes of the city’s Mother Church of Belpasso.
Etna is a popular tourist destination in Italy, attracting hikers and wine tasters to its slopes.
At a towering 3,329m, it is the tallest active volcano in Europe and Italy’s highest peak south of the Alps.
Previous eruptions have led to injuries, including in 2017 were 10 people, including a BBC news crew, were wounded.
Scientists have raised concerns that Etna is slowly slipping into the Mediterranean Sea by as much as 14mm each year.
This could result in part of the volcano collapsing into the water, risking debris entering the surrounding ocean and potentially devastating waves.
The 700,000-year-old volcano is also the second most active on Earth, after Hawaii’s Mount Kilauea.
Situated between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates, it generates nearly constant eruptions of varying degrees.
Each year it produces more than tens of million tons of lava and over 7 million tons of carbon dioxide, water and sulfur dioxide.
Its most severe recent eruption occurred in March of 2017, when nearly a dozen people were injured.
But eruptions have been recorded as far back as 1500 BC, with a devastating eruption in 1169 causing an earthquake that killed an estimated 15,000 people.
In 1992, lava streaming down its slope threatened Zafferana, a town of 7,000, in what’s thought to be the most voluminous flank eruption in 300 years.
Soldiers used controlled explosions to divert the lava flow.