For scientists who study volcanoes, Nyiragongo in central Africa is one of the most fascinating – and the most dangerous.

A burning cauldronHidden in central Africa is a fiery lake that seems to have been lifted straight from the pages of Lord of the Rings. It's a portal into the centre of the Earth, where liquid rock reaching temperatures of more than 1000C seethes like soup in the devil's cauldron.

This is the Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), whose sizzling pit of fire is the world's largest permanent lava lake, according to volcanologist Benoît Smets, who has studied the volcano for more than five years. The 260m-wide pool of fire, which can be viewed from the caldera rim, contains an estimated six million cubic metres of lava, enough to fill 2,500 Olympic swimming pools or 70 Royal Albert Halls. (Credit: Bella Falk)

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Democratic Republic of the Congo Africa