Where is the volcano? Kilauea lacks a distinct peak and lies on the southern flank of Mauna Loa. It was long believed that Kilauea was only a satelite of the much larger Mauna Loa but recent research revealed that Kilauea has its own magma chamber and its lava is chemically different than lava from Mauna Loa. The volcano is estimated to have first erupted 300,000 to 600,000 years ago, and has since stayed active, never experiencing any prolonged period of rest. It emerged from the sea about 50,000 to 100,000 years ago.
The Kilauea summit caldera is one of many pit craters in the area and was formed by the collapse of cooled lava following an eruption. The caldera is about 2-3 miles in diameter and 400 feet deep. Inside the caldera is Halema’uma’u crater. This smaller crater measures about 270 feet (83 m) deep and 2530 feet (900 m) across and contains a lava lake. The glow of the lava offers a spectacular sight at night. The crater emits a large plume of volcanic gas (mainly sulphur dioxide) wich is large enough that it can easily be seen from space.