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This Is What Death by Volcano Looks Like

For better or worse, we probably all remember the duel on the volcanic planet Mustafar between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin at the end of Episode III. After a long battle (full of points of view…), Obi-Wan is victorious, leaving Anakin crawling on the ground, engulfed in flames, furious with his former master. But what if Anakin had straight up fallen into the lava over which he was fighting and died? What would that have looked like had it happened in real life?

We look to the clip above for approximate answers to those questions.

In the video, which was orchestrated and filmed by German volcanologist Dr. Richard Roscoe, we see two people hurl a 30kg (66 lb) “bin bag” of organic waste—mostly food scraps—80 meters (about 262 feet) into the gurgling and gruesome Ethiopian lava lake known as Erta Ale. And when that bag of organic waste/stand-in for an admittedly tiny person falls into the lava, mama nature gives us a quick glimpse at what revenge best served hot looks like.

Let’s try for a death-by-volcano breakdown. What that faux-person is falling into is lava (obviously), which is magma—i.e. molten rock, solids, and volatiles—that has birthed its way through Earth’s crust and come to the planet’s surface. Lava, depending on the type, can be anywhere from 1,300 to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, and can be anywhere from thousands to millions of times more viscous than water.

The extraordinary temperature, density, and viscosity of lava means that, in most cases, if somebody like Anakin were to just fall over into it, he wouldn’t actually fall in, nor would he have the chance to suffocate. Instead, he would just burst into flames and incinerate completely before breaking through the lava’s surface, dying near instantly. Oh, and he’d probably completely char his lungs simultaneously thanks to the super hot air and gases (carbon dioxide, sulfur, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, etc.) above the lava lake.

But, if Anakin jumped or was pushed from a tall enough height, like the organic bag in the video, he could, as Dr. Roscoe notes (regarding the bag) “penetrate the crust of the [lava] lake and submerge in it.” In this case, Anakin would still die almost immediately upon contact with the lava lake, although he’d be able to cause some “fountaining,” or spraying of lava into the air, thanks to the steam his body produces as he’s burned alive.

Ultimately, whether somebody falls from a tall or small height into lava, he’s going to die really fast, leaving zero corpse behind, and no chance to set up some timeless sequels. So don’t try this on your home planet!

But do let us know what you think of this video in the comments below. We know you have some thoughts inside of you that are just burning to get out.

HT: Live Science

Images: Dr. Richard Roscoe

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