Big break for scientists in Giant's Causeway conundrum
Scientists have used an Icelandic volcano to recreate the peculiar basalt columns found at the Giant's Causeway in a laboratory for the very first time.
The experiment, carried out by a professor from the University of Liverpool, also solved the mystery of the temperature at which the hexagonal stones were formed 60 million years ago.
Volcanologist Yan Lavallee said the burning question has long fascinated geologists.
"We have been wanting to know whether the temperature of the lava that causes the fractures was hot, warm or cold," he explained.
After taking samples from Eyjafjallajokull experts now know the answer. Lavallee and his colleagues recreated the process in a laboratory by using basalt cores drilled from the volcano.
The 20cm-long cylinders were then heated until they turned into lava before being cooled to discover the point at which they would snap. The study found that the magma fractured at between 840-890C, the temperature they believe the Giant's Causeway was formed at.