Earth on Fire: The Awesome Power of Volcanic Eruptions, Captured in Pictures

Mount Etna - Italy

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At 10,922 feet, Italy's Mount Etna is the highest and one of the most active volcanoes in Europe. The eruption of 2002-2003, which lasted five months, was one of the most violent of the last 350 years.

Mount Etna spewed vast quantities of ash out of the crater that had opened up on its southern flank, about 1600 feet below the summit. The cities and villages in the area surrounding Etna suffered recurring spells of falling ash. Within hours of the eruption, five centimeters -- almost two inches -- of ash had already fallen on the small town of Nicolosi, around 9 miles away.

Photo credit: Bernhard Edmaier