Mighty Etna is the greatest volcano in Europe and perhaps the planet. At the moment, Etna is having a huge eruption that includes immense fire fountains. Those are just what they sound like: jets of red-hot lava shooting high in the air, for hours at a time. At night, they can be as spectacular as a professional fireworks show, with more impressive sound. For a taste of it, see a 3-minute recording from Saturday, 23 February, made by volcanologist Boris Behncke and posted by Erik Klemetti on his Eruptions blog. Etna was sending lava 800 meters into the sky, or for anyone who's been to New York City, two Empire State Buildings high. I believe that is higher than any fireworks show. And it's not a record, eitherthat seems to have been set in 1779 at 3000 meters, or almost two miles.
To anyone who finds this compelling enough to direct your very life, go see a recent post by Jessica Ball, a grad student in volcanology, titled "So You Want to Be a Volcanologist." Her blog, Magma Cum Laude, is a must-read for anyone attracted to this challenging and important field.