I had an experience the last week or so that once again made me glad I follow space on Twitter.

It all started with this photo[1] posted to Twitter via Discovery Channel blogs on June 12th by our fellow Space Tweep @astroengine. The photo showed a volcanic plume from Sarychev Peak in the Russian Kuril Islands on the Pacific Rim. An Astronaut on the International Space Station captured a stream of images taken in time-lapse of the eruption which was made into an animation, now available on YouTube[2], and the results are pretty incredible.

I have a Bachelors Degree with Honours in Geology (and yes I work in IT, isn’t the modern world silly). These sorts of volcanic eruption action sequences always interest me, and to see this one shot from ISS and the timelapse as they passed over the plume was amazing, awe inspiring, it just blew my mind.

Last week I saw an article, via a fellow Space Tweep (I can’t remeber who you were, sorry!), on Spaceweather.com[3] about the SO2 (sulphur dioxide) fallout from the eruption causing a sunset phenomenon known as a ‘lavender sunset’. The animated image showed  the sulphurous gasses swirling around the northern hemisphere across the globe. I thought I’d keep an eye out for anything unusual but thought little more of it.

That was until July 4th. I was looking out into the dusk from my window behind my desk and the light seemed slightly eerie. I decided to take a look and the sunset and evening sky to the north was spectacular, a collection of all sorts of shades of oranges, pinks, blues and purples. So, after a tip-off from @NewburyAS I grabbed a tripod and a camera and went and took some shots of it.

The best ones got posted to Flickr and I was informed by @Space_Jockey that one photo may actually be an example of the lavender sunset. The whole chain of events was powered by folks I knew on Twitter. Who’d have known a fusion of Geology and Astrophotography was even possible? It is when you know the people I know on Twitter, and they are all Space Tweeps!

Lavender Sunset 4+5/07/2009

[1] http://blogs.discovery.com/earth/2009/06/russian-volcano-shocks-the-world.html

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LESBxErmZ-U

[3] http://spaceweather.com/archive.php?view=1&day=04&month=07&year=2009 third story down