This is the lava lake in the Halemaumau Crater, at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Click on these images to enlarge them, and spend a moment imagining what it was like to be there. Seriously, you must do this. (You can also go visit the Flickr set.) There are stars in the background of glowing smoke from an active volcano. Clouds blowing in are being illuminated by the light of molten rock, the stuff on which our thin crust of earth floats. Bushes are dimly visible in the foreground.
I spent over an hour standing at this spot, until 3:30 AM. Gone were the annoying tourists who had been taking flash photographs of their friends before the dim glow. Gone was the chatter of people who stopped at this place as a roadside attraction on the way from Kona to Hilo, or vice-versa. Everyone was gone; for the entire time, it was just me with the silence broken by the wind, and an endless sky of stars that was eventually closed in by clouds.
The lava glow illuminated the crater, and even my feet standing back at the safe distance of the visitor’s center. The photons from the stars have come untold millions of miles from their nuclear cauldrons. The photons from this cauldron in front of me are from heat that also has a nuclear source: not the fusion of stars, but a low-level fission process deep inside the earth’s core that contributes to the heat of gravitational compression.
But forget all that. Just click on the pictures, which I took using a rock wall as my tripod, and share a little of my endless awe at this incredible universe we occupy.