Volcanism On Io

Volcanism On Io

Volcanology of Io, a moon of Jupiter, is the scientific study of lava flows, volcanic pits, and volcanism (volcanic activity) on the surface of Io. Its volcanic activity was discovered in 1979 by Voyager 1 imaging scientists. Observations of Io by passing spacecraft (the Voyagers, Galileo, Cassini, and New Horizons) and Earth-based astronomers have revealed more than 150 active volcanoes. Up to 400 such volcanoes are predicted to exist based on these observations. Io's volcanism makes the satellite one of only five known currently volcanically active worlds in the solar system (the other four being Earth, Venus, Saturn's moon Enceladus, and Neptune's moon Triton).

First predicted shortly before the Voyager 1 flyby, the heat source for Io's volcanism comes from tidal heating produced by its forced orbital eccentricity. This differs from Earth's internal heating, which is derived primarily from radioactive isotope decay and primordial heat of accretion. Io's eccentric orbit leads to a slight difference in Jupiter's gravitational pull on the satellite between its closest and farthest points on its orbit, causing a varying tidal bulge. This variation in the shape of Io causes frictional heating in its interior. Without this tidal heating, Io might have been similar to the Earth's moon, a world of similar size and mass, geologically dead and covered with numerous impact craters.

Io's volcanism has led to the formation of hundreds of volcanic centres and extensive lava formations, making the moon the most volcanically active body in the Solar System. Three different types of volcanic eruptions have been identified, differing in duration, intensity, lava effusion rate, and whether the eruption occurs within a volcanic pit (known as a patera). Lava flows on Io, tens or hundreds of kilometres long, have primarily basaltic composition, similar to lavas seen on Earth at shield volcanoes such as Kīlauea in Hawaii. While most lavas on Io are made of basalt, a few lava flows consisting of sulfur and sulfur dioxide have been seen. In addition, eruption temperatures as high as 1,600 K (1,300 °C; 2,400 °F) were detected, which can be explained by the eruption of high-temperature ultramafic silicate lavas.

As a result of the presence of significant quantities of sulfurous materials in Io's crust and on its surface, some eruptions propel sulfur, sulfur dioxide gas, and pyroclastic material up to 500 kilometres (310 mi) into space, producing large, umbrella-shaped volcanic plumes. This material paints the surrounding terrain in red, black, and/or white, and provides material for Io's patchy atmosphere and Jupiter's extensive magnetosphere. Spacecraft that have flown by Io since 1979 have observed numerous surface changes as a result of Io's volcanic activity.

Read more about Volcanism On Io:  Discovery, Heat Source, Composition, Eruption Styles, Plumes, See Also

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