As Mauna Loa erupts, Hawaii officials warn of ‘Pele’s Hair.’ What is it?
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Hawaii emergency officials warn residents near Mauna Loa of Pele's Hair - but what is it and why is it dangerous?
Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano, began erupting around 11:30 p.m. Sunday, November 27, McClatchy News reported.
The eruption is confined to Moku'āweoweo, the 13,100-foot volcano's summit caldera, the Hawaii Volcano Observatory reported.
Lava has inundated the caldera but currently poses no threat to populated areas, emergency officials said Monday, November 28.
The National Weather Service has warned up to a quarter of an inch of ash could fall on Hawaii and warned those with breathing problems to stay indoors.
A 7:20 a.m. warning from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said ash, gas and Pele's hair could be carried downwind from the volcano, which last erupted in 1984.
Here's what you should know:
What is Pele's hair?
Pele's hair, a by-product of volcanic eruptions, is thin glass fibers "named after the volcanic deity Pele," according to the National Park Service.
Stacks of the long, hair-like fibers are found near volcanic peaks in Hawaii. The fibers resemble "golden hair mats," the park service says on a page about the phenomena.
"When gas bubbles burst near the surface of a lava flow, it can stretch the skin of the molten lava into long filaments," the Page said.
Strands of Pele's hair can be up to 2 feet long but are less than a micron or 0.001 millimeters wide. They are light enough to be picked up and carried by the wind.
Pele's hair can form mats up to several centimeters deep. The fragile mats are easy to break, but since they're glass, they can splinter in the skin or eyes, the agency warned.
"Caution around the fibers is necessary to avoid injury from the splinters," the agency advised. However, birds sometimes use the fibers as part of their nests.
Who is Pele?
Pele, short for Pelehonuamea, is a native Hawaiian deity of fire and volcanoes, Hawaii.com reported. According to legend, she lives on the top of Kīlauea in Hawaii.
The goddess is said to travel the islands and appear to people "as a beautiful young woman or as an old woman, sometimes accompanied by a white dog".
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