Kilauea plume photograph by Rogelio Bernal Andreo.

A Stunning Photo of a Hawaiian Volcano Plume

A Stunning Photo of a Hawaiian Volcano Plume

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Jan. 24 2016 9:30 AM

From Beneath the Earth to Above the Sky



The glowing plume of an active volcano, lit from below by molten rock from deep inside the Earth.

Photo by Rogelio Bernal Andreo, used by permission

Regular readers know that when it comes to science, my two loves are astronomy and geology. That love is multiplied when they come together.

like in the photo above, a six-panel mosaic taken by master photographer Rogelio Bernal Andreo (you can purchase a print, too). It shows the Hawaiian volcano Kilauea just days ago, when it was spewing an enormous plume of noxious sulfury gas and water vapor into the sky. It looks like an explosive eruption, but that’s an illusion! You’re actually seeing the plume illuminated from below by the lava pooling in the Halema’uma’u crater. It’s a common sight, though not usually this dramatic or so beautifully photographed.


Above it, you can spot the Pleiades star cluster, and Orion to the left. The mix of stars, sky, black lava landscape, and eerily glowing plume is really magical.

I’ve been fortunate to have visited Kilauea twice now; once as a site visit for Science Getaways, and then again for the actual trip. I wrote about the first visit and made a video at the summit with Halema’uma’u behind me:

As it happens, my wife and I are planning another Getaway to the islands. We had a fantastic time there last September, and I’m really looking forward to going back. Hopefully I’ll have more info about that in the coming months, but we have a spring getaway to plan first. Stay tuned!

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!