The night sky lights up over the east coast of Sicily as Mount Etna’s Voragine crater erupts for the first time in two years. The giant plume of smoke and ash thrown up by the blast creates a dazzling display of volcanic lightning, a mysterious phenomenon seen in many of the most powerful volcanic eruptions.
In the same way that a balloon rubbing against a statically charged object builds up a charge of electricity, or your shoes on a dry carpet can cause a spark when you touch someone, above Mount Etna, the fine, dry ash particles violently gushing upward, rub together and trigger lightning strikes.
The tallest active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna stands almost 11,000 feet tall. In modern times, towns and villages in the foothills of Etna have been protected by ditches and concrete dams that divert lava flows to safer ground. The volcano has five craters: the Bocca Nuova, the north-east crater, two in the south-east crater complex and the Voragine. The Voragine crater formed inside the volcano’s central crater in 1945.
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