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Kilauea volcano spits out item ‘never seen before’ during explosion

The half-inch lava eggshell, a one-of-a-kind object, was produced during the latest explosion of Kilauea volcano
The half-inch lava eggshell, a one-of-a-kind object, was produced during the latest explosion of Kilauea volcano. Photo: Courtesy of USGS

Kilauea, the most active volcano in Hawaii, surprised scientists during its latest explosion by spewing out an odd and one-of-a-kind object, which was collected by geologist Tim Orr of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

“It's an incredibly curious thing,” Orr told the Honolulu Star Advertiser. “Nothing like this has been seen before.”

The fragile volcanic object is black, a half-inch long, and hollow inside like a lava eggshell.

“The fact that it is hollow is what is really interesting,” Orr told the Star Advertiser.

A photo of the object was posted on the USGS website with the caption, “Coolest Pele's Tear ever!”

Pele is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes, and is the creator of the Hawaiian Islands, according to Hawaiian religion.

Pele's Tears are small pieces of solidified lava that form into the shape of a teardrop when they are airborne. So to find one that is hollow is extremely rare.

“To my knowledge, it's the only thing like it that has ever formed,” Orr told the Star Advertiser.

The explosion occurred Friday at around 3:51 a.m. and was captured on video by an area webcam:

Volcanic fragments ranging from dust-sized particles to rocks more than a yard in diameter shot up about 360 feet into the air to the rim of Halemaumau Crater, which is within Kilauea volcano.

Orr speculates that the object may have formed after the initial collapse explosion while the lava lake was still unsettled and sending spatter into the air, the Star Advertiser wrote.

“That it survived is pretty remarkable,” Orr said.

Added observatory spokesperson Janet Babb, “One wrong touch and it could be in pieces.”

The rare object will be placed in a display case in the lobby of the observatory.

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