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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Hellish Moon

Hellish Moon

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, May 11, 2017/Categories: natural history, video, space science, environment, adventure

Io Lava Lakes & Europa Shadow (credit: UCB, Nature)

Io is a hellish place. Jupiter's innermost moon is in constant volcanic eruption due to the combined gravitational pull of Jupiter and another moon, Europa. Volcanic plumes have been observed spewing 190 miles from the moons surface. The entire moon is covered with volcanoes, lava lakes, floodplains of molton rock, and high mountains of faulted and broken crust. New research published in Nature shows just how hellish a place Io really is. 

According to researchers at UC-Berkeley and elsewhere, "heat emanating from volcanoes on Io’s surface was accurately measured as Europa passed in front of the moon. Infrared data showed that the surface temperature of Io’s massive molten lake (Loki Patera) steadily increased from one end to the other, suggesting that the lava had overturned in 2 waves that each swept from west to east at about a kilometer (3,300 feet) per day." In the process, portions of Io's surface are systematically being remodeled.

A simulation of telescope-gathered heat data was produced to show the lava-waves sweeping around Loki Patera (a bowl-shaped volcanic crater) moving at different rates and then converging. Lead researcher and report author Katherine de Kleer said: “If Loki Patera is a sea of lava, it encompasses an area more than a million times that of a typical lava lake on Earth. In our scenario, portions of cooler crust sink, exposing the incandescent magma underneath and causing a brightening in the infrared.”

Maybe someday a satellite will be put into orbit around Io to learn even more about its molton story.



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