Massive volcanic eruption detected on Jupiter’s hellish moon Io

(ORDO NEWS) — The most powerful volcanic eruptions in the solar system do not occur on Earth, but on Io, the sulphurous moon orbiting the planet Jupiter.

And now, researchers at the Planetary Science Institute (PSI) in the US have noticed a recent outbreak that has proven surprisingly productive, even for a hellish world like Io.

In the space around Jupiter, the torus of plasma, created and fed by Io’s volcanic ejecta, was significantly enriched between July and September.

Last year and persisted until December, showing that the moon was undergoing a burst of volcanic activity that released a huge amount of material.

For something little more than Earth’s moon, Io is the absolute beast of vulcanism. It is teeming with volcanoes, with about 150 of the 400 known volcanoes erupting at any given time, forming huge lakes of molten lava.

This is all due to its connection to Jupiter: Io moves in an elliptical trajectory, which results in variations in gravitational pull that change the shape of the moon as it orbits the planet.

Other Galilean moons also attract Io. This creates frictional heat within Io, which then ejects molten material from within.

What happens to Io’s volcanic ejecta then affects Jupiter. Because Io has no magnetic field of its own, the sulfur dioxide escapes, forming a plasma torus that orbits Jupiter.

This is what powers the permanent ultraviolet auroras that twinkle at Jupiter’s poles – the most powerful auroras in the world. Solar system.

This complex interaction is, of course, fascinating in itself. But it can also help inform other interactions of a similar nature that might be taking place out there in the wider galaxy.

So PSI astronomer Jeff Morgenthaler is monitoring Io using Io’s PSI I/O. observatory (IoIO) since 2017.

Massive volcanic eruption detected on Jupiters hellish moon Io
IoIO image of the result of a volcanic eruption in the Ionian Sea

Jupiter is very large and very bright, which is why IoIO uses a corona method: it effectively minimizes the light coming from Jupiter so that Mogenthaler can see the light emitted by other objects. in the space around it, including the plasma torus.

Thus he sees that every year there is a volcanic eruption on Io; and how he was able to see that sulfur and sodium were being pumped into the tor in the autumn of last year.

However, although the numbers were huge, the torus was dimmer than in other years. We don’t know what that means yet, but deciphering it could tell us something new about the fiery dance between Jupiter and Io.

“This could tell us something about the composition of the volcanic activity that produced the outbreak, or it could tell us that the torus is more efficient at getting rid of material when more material is thrown at it,” says Morgenthaler.

We’ll have to wait to find out more, but with IoIO on the ground and Juno currently orbiting Jupiter, there will be more information about the plasma torus, especially since Juno can measure changes in Jupiter’s plasma environment.

In addition, Juno will be performing a flyby of Jupiter Io in December 2023, so we look forward to hearing about the smelly yellow moon.

“Measurements from Juno,” says Morgenthaler, “can tell us if this volcanic eruption had a different composition than previous ones.”

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