Lavas from Hawaiian volcano contain fingerprint of planetary formation

Hikers visiting the Kilauea Iki crater in Hawaii today walk along a mostly flat surface of sparsely vegetated basalt. It looks like parking lot asphalt, but, in November and December 1959, it emitted the orange glow of newly erupted lava. Now, a precision analysis of lava samples taken from the crater is giving scientists a new tool for reconstructing planetary origins. The results of the analysis, by the University of Chicago’s Nicolas Dauphas and his associates, were published in the 20 June 2008 issue of the journal Science.

EruptHill2Eruption Hill in Kilauea Iki crater on the Big Island of Hawaii. In December 1959, lava spurted 1,900 feet high from this location. Working with lava samples from the crater, scientists at the University of Chicago and elsewhere have devised a new tool for reconstructing planetary origins. (Photo: Steve Koppes)


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