Niijima

An image of the new island Niijima. (NASA)

There is a new island on our planet. Its name is Niijima, and you can see one of its newest baby pictures, courtesy of NASA, above.

Niijima is a volcanic island. It emerged from the Pacific Ocean one month ago, about 600 miles south of Tokyo. It is still rather small -- just 13.8  acres according to a recent report. It rises 60 to 80 feet above sea level.

The picture above was taken Dec. 8 by the Advanced Land Imager on NASA's Earth Observing satellite. The greenish color in the water surrounding the island is caused by volcanic minerals and gases mixing with the sea floor sediment, according to a NASA report.

The thin puffs of smoke in the image are ash and steam -- also associated with the eruption.

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It is not a coincidence that Niijima formed so close to the larger island Nishino-Shima, the larger landmass in the image.

Both islands are part of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana arc system, which forms a line of volcanoes in the western Pacific, south of Japan. The volcanoes occur where two tectonic plates meet, and one occasionally slips beneath the other.

When the new island was first seen spewing thick plumes of ash and steam by the Japanese coast guard on Nov. 20, volcanologists were unsure how long it would stick around. 

"Most of the time islands like this have very short lives because they are built of ash and larger rock particles that get eroded by wave action," Bruce Houghton, a professor of volcanology at the University of Hawaii told the Los Angeles Times at the time. 

However, so far it looks like Niijima may have some staying power. A spokesperson for the Japanese meteorological agency said the the volcanic eruption that formed the island is still continuing, and that Niijima will probably last for several years -- unless a massive volcanic eruption blows it apart. 

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