Mauna Loa Units & Lava Update (PAN019, PAN022, PAN024, PAN025)

Early this year, we deployed four new units at the Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO) on the Big Island of Hawai’i.

These new units replaced PAN001, which was the first baseline unit for Project PANOPTES. The new units will be the baseline unit for future PANOPTES builders. See for more information about the build & deployment.

Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawai’i and is considered the largest active volcano on Earth.

27 Nov 2022:
On 27 Nov 2022, the Mauna Loa volcano began erupting in Moku‘āweoweo Caldera, at approximately 11:30 pm (HST).

28 Nov 2022:

At 4:00 am (HST), a highly sensitive video camera built & supported by PANOPTES picked up a bright red lava glow reflecting off the clouds. The camera was recently pointed high up in the sky to live stream the November lunar eclipse and picked up the red glow during the eruption. See: Youtube Live Stream

At 5:00 am (HST), we planned to visit the Mauna Loa Observatory to retrieve the PANOPTES units. The lava was still confined to the summit and within the caldera. We decided to meet at 9:00 am (HST) to decide the best strategy to bring the units down as quickly as possible. It takes us 1.5 hours to reach the observatory, at least an hour to disassemble the four units, and another 45 minutes to climb down the mountain to a safe zone.

By 7:00 am (HST), the lava was confirmed to have exited the summit and was seen on the upper northeast rift zone.

A fissure had opened about 2 miles near the observatory and the MLO observatory site manager closed access to the observatory. The eruption was moving very fast and we could not attempt to retrieve the PANOPTES units anymore.

In a few hours, the lava crossed the Mauna Loa access road and the Mauna Loa observatory lost power as the lava destroyed the power line on its way. The PANOPTES units also lost power and communication.

We currently do not have access or a status update on the PANOPTES units at the Mauna Loa Observatory. We expect the units to be safe since the lava flow did not directly cross the Mauna Loa Observatory. The units are likely covered in a thick blanket of volcanic ash and Pele’s hair. Pele’s hair is a volcanic glass formation produced from cooled lava stretched into thin strands, named after the volcanic deity Pele.

We will post any updates as comments to this post whenever we have one.

[Image credits:, Andrew Hara]

You can follow the eruption with this livecam:

Another live feed of the Maunaloa eruption by the Subaru-Asahi Star Camera: