NASA studies the birth of an unusual island

NASA has been tracking the growth and estimating the longevity of a recently formed volcanic island. 

The island began to form in December of 2014 when, according to NASA, “a submarine volcano in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga erupted, sending a violent stream of steam, ash and rock into the air.” 

“The most dramatic changes to the island occurred in its first six months. Initially, the new island was relatively oval and attached to its neighboring island to the west. However, by April analysis of satellite imagery found that its shape had changed dramatically,” the agency further notes.

Signs of stabilization emerged in late 2016, and experts, who initially projected its lifespan to be only months now believe it could survive for up to 30 years. 

This is the first such mass to form in the satellite age, and researchers are keeping a close watch on it for a variety of scientific reasons, one of them being the insights into Martian history it could provide. 

“Everything we learn about what we see on Mars is based on the experience of interpreting Earth phenomena,” Jim Garvin, one of the team members, said. “We think there were eruptions on Mars at a time when there were areas of persistent surface water. We may be able to use this new Tongan island and its evolution as a way of testing whether any of those represented an oceanic environment or ephemeral lake environment.”

RELATED: NASA releases stunning close-up images of giant new iceberg in Antarctica

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NASA releases stunning close-up images of giant new iceberg in Antarctica
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NASA releases stunning close-up images of giant new iceberg in Antarctica
Photographed by NASA, the A-68 iceberg is one of the largest ever observed on Earth.
Photographed by NASA, the A-68 iceberg is one of the largest ever observed on Earth.
Photographed by NASA, the A-68 iceberg is one of the largest ever observed on Earth.
Photographed by NASA, the A-68 iceberg is one of the largest ever observed on Earth.
UNSPECIFIED, ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 31: The western edge of the famed iceberg A-68 (TOP R), calved from the Larsen C ice shelf, is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region, on October 31, 2017, above Antarctica. The massive iceberg was measured at approximately the size of Delaware when it first calved in July. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past nine years and is currently flying a set of nine-hour research flights over West Antarctica to monitor ice loss aboard a retrofitted 1966 Lockheed P-3 aircraft. According to NASA, the current mission targets 'sea ice in the Bellingshausen and Weddell seas and glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula and along the English and Bryan Coasts.' Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. The National Climate Assessment, a study produced every 4 years by scientists from 13 federal agencies of the U.S. government, released a stark report November 2 stating that global temperature rise over the past 115 years has been primarily caused by 'human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases'. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 31: The western edge of the famed iceberg A-68 (TOP R), calved from the Larsen C ice shelf, is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region, on October 31, 2017, above Antarctica. The massive iceberg was measured at approximately the size of Delaware when it first calved in July. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past nine years and is currently flying a set of nine-hour research flights over West Antarctica to monitor ice loss aboard a retrofitted 1966 Lockheed P-3 aircraft. According to NASA, the current mission targets 'sea ice in the Bellingshausen and Weddell seas and glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula and along the English and Bryan Coasts.' Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. The National Climate Assessment, a study produced every 4 years by scientists from 13 federal agencies of the U.S. government, released a stark report November 2 stating that global temperature rise over the past 115 years has been primarily caused by 'human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases'. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 31: The western edge of the famed iceberg A-68 (TOP R), calved from the Larsen C ice shelf, is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region, on October 31, 2017, above Antarctica. The massive iceberg was measured at approximately the size of Delaware when it first calved in July. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past nine years and is currently flying a set of nine-hour research flights over West Antarctica to monitor ice loss aboard a retrofitted 1966 Lockheed P-3 aircraft. According to NASA, the current mission targets 'sea ice in the Bellingshausen and Weddell seas and glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula and along the English and Bryan Coasts.' Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. The National Climate Assessment, a study produced every 4 years by scientists from 13 federal agencies of the U.S. government, released a stark report November 2 stating that global temperature rise over the past 115 years has been primarily caused by 'human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases'. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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