Holiday calendar: Japan's baby island is here to stay

An imager on NASA's Earth Observing 1 satellite captured this Dec. 8 picture of the new volcanic island, Niijima, sitting next to another volcanic island called Nishino-shima. Stirred-up sediment lightens up the waters around Niijima, and the white puffs seen above the baby island and heading out to sea are thought to be clouds of steam and other volcanic gases. Robert Simmon / EO-1 / NASA

Clouds of steam and other volcanic gases mark the birth of Niijima, a new volcanic island off the coast of Japan, in a space snapshot captured by NASA's Earth Observing 1 satellite.

Niijima rose up from the Pacific last month, about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of Tokyo and only 500 meters (yards) from another volcanic island called Nishimo-shima. That island sprouted from the sea in 1973 and 1974. Now Nishino-shima's volcanic arc, part of the Pacific's "Ring of Fire," has given birth to a new stretch of land.

In the Dec. 8 picture from EO-1's Advanced Land Imager, you can see how volcanic activity is stirring up sediment around the edges of the baby island, and how puffs of steam are streaming southward. Aerial photography from the Japan Coast Guard also documents Niijima's growth. This week, the Coast Guard reported that Niijima has grown to 0.08 square kilometers (19.8 acres) in area, which is five times its initial size.

How long will Niijima stick around? "As the volcanic eruption is still continuing, we don't know the fate of the island," the Japan Meteorological Agency's Tomoyuki Kano told AFP. "But it won't disappear in days or weeks, and will probably last for several years ... unless a huge volcanic eruption happens and blows it apart."

That assessment is in contrast with the outlook for Zalzala Koh, the soft "mud island" that rose up off the coast of Pakistan near Gwadar in the wake of a deadly earthquake on Sept. 24. Zalzala Koh is gradually sinking back into the Arabian Sea and probably won't last another year.

The satellite image of Niijima is part of the Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which highlights daily views of Earth from space from Dec. 1 to 25. For more Advent calendar goodies, check out The Atlantic's Hubble Advent CalendarZooniverse's Advent calendar and the Galileo's Pendulum Science Advent Calendar.

Clouds of steam and gas rise from Niijima on Dec. 13, in an aerial photograph from the Japan Coast Guard. Nishino-shima is nearby. Japan Coast Guard

Previously on the Space Advent Calendar:

Alan Boyle is's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.