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Tonga Islands South Pacific Ocean
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Tonga Islands, South Pacific Ocean

April 23, 2013
Volcanic in origin, the Tonga Islands arc northeast across the South Pacific Ocean. The islands have formed along a subduction zone where the Pacific Plate—the slab of the Earth’s crust that carries the Pacific Ocean—is sinking deep into the Earth. Weaknesses in the Earth’s crust in this region have allowed a line of volcanoes to push through and create the Tonga Islands. The islands sit about 2,000 east of Australia, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image of the islands on September 15, 2005. The islands are divided into three administrative groups: the Tongatapu Group in the south, the Ha’apai Group in the center, and the Vava’u Group in the north. The kingdom’s capital, Nuku’alofa, is in the Tongatapu Group. Coral reefs around some of the islands tint the ocean green. Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC