Awe-inspiring extraterrestrial volcanoes—both active and extinct—provide clues to planetary formation and hints of how life may have formed.


“By studying [volcanoes in space] we can start to answer questions about how planets formed and how life arose.”

Denton Ebel Curator, Division of Physical Sciences



Space Eruptions

Volcanic eruptions are dramatic manifestations of our dynamic planet. But Earth’s volcanoes are not the only ones in the universe. If you think Mt. Vesuvius and Kilauea are spectacular, wait until you meet some of their incredible extraterrestrial counterparts.


“Anywhere we have gases that can expand, we can have a form of volcanism,” says Denton Ebel, curator in the Museum’s Division of Physical Sciences. By studying extraterrestrial volcanoes through spacecraft-collected data, Moon rocks, and meteorites, researchers are piecing together a dynamic story about how planets form and even finding clues to how life arose on Earth.

From the familiar-looking lava flows of fiery eruptions on Jupiter’s moon Io, to the strikingly bizarre freezing cryovolcanoes erupting near the South Pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Ebel takes us on a virtual expedition through some of the solar system’s most captivating volcanoes.




Find out what happens when an “extinct” volcano roars back to life 





Shelf Life is a collection for curious minds—opening doors, pulling out drawers, and taking the lids off some of the incredible, rarely-seen items in the American Museum of Natural History.