Science

Electric Blue Lava Erupted From an Indonesian Volcano!

Rueben Wu, an Indonesian photographer, captured what it seems to be a surreal image of blue lava erupting from an Indonesian volcano. The bright blue coloration however, although surreal, is a result of a little bit of chemistry.

 

Both on Earth and other planets, volcanoes come to us in different shapes and sizes. There we have the Shield volcanoes like Kilauea which erupts lava fairly slow over long periods of time. We also have the stratovolcanoes like Fuji, who remain silent for centuries before they explode and create chaos all over the globe. There are volcanoes on Jupiter’s moons, like the one on Io, which when the eruption comes, the lava reaches heights of 500km. Lava is always orangey-redish. Until now. An indonesian volcanic complex called Kawah Ijen broke the stereotype with its iridescent blue lava.

 

The Ijen complex is made out of a collection of stratovolcanoes in East Java and it has a cauldron shaped “caldera” which spans approximately 22 kilometers across. The honor of being the “biggest” goes to the Gunung Merapi volcano, which when translated it means “Mountain of Fire”.

 

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Image credit: Reuben Wu

As seen on Reuben Wu’s incredible photography, Kawah Ijen is literally the definition of unreal, especially at night. The lava is fairly slow moving, viscous, and around 600-900°C (1112-1652°F). A vast amount of thermal energy is released from the lava. This emission actually gives lava its red hue. Hower, particularly here the lava is actually burning pockets of sulfur, which come out of the volcanic crevices together with the molten rock.

 

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Image credit: Reuben Wu

something we should all remember from our chemistry class from our teenage years are burning elements. When potassium is placed in the flame of a Bunsen burner, it burns and produces a lilac color. Burning calcium, yellowish-red flame, copper burns green-blue. Sulfur on the other hand when ignited, here from the heat of the lava itself, burns an iridescent blue.

 

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Image credit: Reuben Wu

If you find yourself in Indonesia make sure you see the colorful displays of deep-red liquid sulfur, bright blue igniting sulfur, and the creepy walls of cooled, yellow sulfur. Do keep something in mind though, Sulfur gases are, incredibly damaging to the respiratory system. No matter being a wonder to look at, this volcano can kill you without the lava even touching you. Best take a gas mask with your DSLR camera.

 

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Image credit: Reuben Wu

You can see Rueben Wu’s photography on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and on his own website.

 

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