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Today members of the Department of Awesome Natural Phenomena is…

Today members of the Department of Awesome Natural Phenomena is currently hovering over Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano so that they can all grin at the smiley face that has appeared in the volcano’s Pu’u ‘O’o lava lake crater.

While it may seem like Kilauea was smiling for the cameras, the “face” has a more scientific explanation: The bright spots and incandescent line that created the face shape were produced by normal volcanic activity.

As a lava lake circulates, lava upwelling and downwelling will occur on opposite sides of the lake, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. This often results in a spattering of molten lava, which creates bright spots on the dark-colored, semi-solid lake surface. Circulation can also cause sections of the surface to pull apart, revealing the lava beneath and creating lines.

This infernal smile was captured by helicopter pilot Mick Kalber of the Paradise Helicopters tour company:

[via LiveScience]

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