Flying to or from the island of Hawaiʻi is made much more interesting on days with moderate cloud cover by the sight of one or more of the volcanoes that make up the island rearing its massive bulk above the clouds. I've been walking, climbing, and driving on Mauna Kea for over two years now, and I'm still staggered by its gargantuan size every time I see it from the air.
The first time I saw it like that, I gained a measure of insight into Hawaiian culture; I like felt I could better understand the thought processes of people whose ancestors had for centuries lived on and around these voluminous volcanoes. This time, however, I was struck by an entirely different kind of realization.
You see, for all their bulk, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are absolutely minuscule when compared to the size of the Earth. If the Earth were the size of a basketball, you wouldn't even be able to feel them with your fingers. In fact, not even the Andes or the Himalayas would protrude enough to be tactile. One concept that astronomers and physicists have to handle, perhaps more than any other people, is a sense of scale for things that are inconceivably beyond our human experience, both incredibly tiny and fantastically large. It's one of the reasons I created my picture showing the relative sizes of the Sun and planets. Seeing those volcanoes provides me an invaluable opportunity to refresh and recalibrate my sense of scale. If you ever have the pleasure of traveling to Hawaiʻi and the ability to see those beautiful mountains, take a moment to reflect on their size in the grand scheme of things. The act of gaining an increased sense of perspective never, in my experience, fails to bring amazement and a heightened sense of wonder at our amazing universe.