ENVIRONMENT
01/29/2015 02:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Pele's Hair, Or Lava Glass, Is As Mystical As It Is Beautiful (PHOTOS)

As the Puna lava flow remains mostly stalled near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii, visitors up the slope of the Kilauea volcano can still witness some pretty impressive geologic phenomena.

In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, most visitors are on the lookout for liquid magma, but astute observers may notice something even more perplexing: clumps of glistening, golden threads blowing in the winds. The hair-like strands can stack so high you'd think Rapunzel was sheared nearby.

peles hair road

This May 3, 2012, photo shows how much of Pele's Hair can accumulate in a parking lot immediately downwind of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater on Hawaii Island.

Volcanologists call it Pele’s Hair, after the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, but the golden strands are actually fragile volcanic fiberglass.

They're formed when lava is ejected into the air and small droplets are caught by the wind, which then cools and stretches them into very thin strands. Some threads can reach as long as 6 feet and are most likely gold in color due to weathering effects, experts say.

Pele’s Hair (as well as Pele’s Tears, which are the thicker ends of the strands) can tell geologists information about that lava’s history. For example, by looking closely at the strands' small crystals, scientists can tell eruption temperatures as well as the magma's path to the surface.

Pele's Hair can be found on other volcanoes in the world. In Iceland, for example, it's called “Nornahár," or Witch’s Hair.

peles hair antenna

Pele's Hair is seen clustered on a radio antenna near Hawaii Island's Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater.

Unfortunately, as with most things related to lava, you shouldn't touch them. The glass fibers can be sharp and get embedded in your skin if you're not careful.

Check out the pictures of Pele's Hair below, and for more information on where to find it, visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

pele hair cover

These strands of Pele's Hair formed from a Mount Ulu eruption on Hawaii Island's Kilauea volcano between 1969 and 1974.

peles hair 2

This fresh pinch of hair is from the Halemaʻumaʻu Overlook vent on Hawaii Island's Kilauea volcano.

erta ale pele 2

Sheets of Pele's Hair can also be found on Erta Ale in Ethiopia, sometimes called the "Gateway to Hell" or "smoking mountain."

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