Sunday, November 09, 2008

Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons, is maybe covered with volcanoes actively exploding with ice, in defiance of what we want volcanoes to look like. Those volcanoes could not only be shooting the ice into the air, forming clouds and clouds made of cold little particles, but out into space itself. Enceladus' ice volcanoes could very well be what makes up Saturn's mysterious blue E ring.

A cold volcano is somehow much more frightening than a hot one, possibly because we have no rings made of lava, no matter how high our own mountains throw their insides.

I was reading recently about a volcano in Japan, Mount Mihara, which has a spot close to the top from which you can jump straight down into the lava. (It's also where they imprisoned Godzilla in Godzilla 1985.) Thousands of people have likely hopped into the fire over the years, no matter how much a fence at the bottom might have discouraged the uncommitted. It erupted for the last time in 1986, and I can't help but wonder how many molecules from those people were tossed into the air along with the lava plume. Perhaps we don't have rings made of fire, but instead rings made of the missing, rotating softly, never actually gone.

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