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Volcanic eruption forms new island in South Pacific

An underwater volcanic eruption in the South Pacific has spawned a new island near Tonga.

But before you book your tickets to this untouched paradise, be warned. Scientists have suggested it probably is too hot and unstable.

The 1,640-foot-long island resulted from the eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano in December. Images taken Jan. 19 by the Pléiades, a high-resolution satellite operated by Airbus Defence and Space, showed the crater that emerged between two existing islands as a result of the volcano.

The rock and ash expelled from the volcano connected the crater to one of the two islands and wiped out all its vegetation, according to Airbus.

Tonga is a collection of some 170 islands.

Images from the new island showed a barren, gray landscape. The only redeeming feature was an emerald green sulfurous lake that formed on one end of the island.

Several people witnessed the eruption and made visits to the new island, according to the BBC.

"It's really quite solid once you are on it and it's quite high," Gianpiero Orbassano, who owns a hotel in Tonga and travelled to the island with two friends, told the BBC. "It felt quite safe - the only difficult thing was getting out of the boat on to the island. The surface was hot, you could feel it. And climbing it was hard in the bright sun."

But Matt Watson, a reader in natural hazards at the University of Bristol, warned the island was likely to be "highly unstable."

"It will be very loose and unconsolidated material," he told the BBC. "It's formed by fragmentation of magma, so it's basically small pieces of rock on top of each other that have formed an island."

  • Michael Casey

    Michael Casey covers the environment, science and technology for CBSNews.com