Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A pair of giants

I’ve been keeping track, and between The Earth Story and The Universe, this is the 100th post I’ve written, so to commemorate I wanted to share something special. This is a photo from my personal collection and I realized after I took it that there’s a chance I may never take a photo I like better.

This photo was taken out the window of an airplane as it lifted off from Hilo airport on the big island of Hawai’i. The day was cloudy and I couldn’t see much at ground level, but as the plane ascended, we broke through the cloud bank, and there sat a pair of 4,000 meter monsters; Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea sits in the foreground of this image. You may notice that it looks different from Mauna Loa. Mauna Kea was built through a long series of eruptions and once had a shape very similar to Mauna Loa’s today, but the eruption style has changed now that it is in its later years. Mauna Kea now undergoes smaller, often more viscous eruptions that have built a number of cinder cones on its face.

Mauna Loa, on the other hand, sits in the background and has the classic shield volcano shape, Its summit caldera, known as Mokuaweoweo, can be seen as well.

Mauna Loa right now erupts on average every 10 years or so, although its last eruption was over 25 years ago. Mauna Kea is much less active and may go through long intervals of quiescence followed by a more rapid series of eruptions, but on average erupts perhaps once every 1,000 years or so.

Since Mauna Kea is much less active, it is possible to safely construct structures on the surface without expecting them to be damaged. The combination of the mountain’s height, the lack of nearby light and pollution sources, low humidity, and equatorial location make it an ideal spot for building observatories to look out into space, some of which can be seen in this photo.

That’s what I’ll go with for my 100th post. Thanks to the other admins for the opportunity to post here, and thanks for reading. I hope some people out there enjoy reading these as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

Image credit: belongs to the author, can be shared freely.

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