4.5 billion-year-long eruption: Volcanic activity on Io has been ongoing since the formation of the moon

Volcanic activity on Io has been going on for many billions of years — since the formation of the Solar System. This is the conclusion reached by American planetary scientists.

Lava flow on the surface of Io. Source: NASA

Jupiter’s moon Io is the most geologically active body in the Solar System. On its surface there are hundreds of active volcanoes that regularly emit streams of molten sulfur, which constantly change its landscapes.

The source of this activity is the tidal heating of Io caused by the gravity of Jupiter, as well as the neighboring moons Europa and Ganymede. They literally “dilute” its interior, provoking more and more eruptions.

But how long has volcanic activity been going on on Io? The researchers used the ALMA radio telescope complex to answer this question. It was used to study gases present in Io’s atmosphere. Scientists were especially interested in data on chlorine molecules and stable sulfur isotopes.

Image of Io taken from a distance of 2,800 km. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

ALMA measurements revealed that Io’s atmosphere is enriched with heavy sulfur isotopes. Their ratio indicates that the moon has lost from 94% to 99% of the available sulfur. Chlorine in the atmosphere is also constantly enriched with heavier isotopes. Subsequent modeling showed that for such a ratio to exist, Io must have remained volcanically active since its formation.

Scientists plan to continue studying Io to find out if it had an initial colder period, which ended due to incessant volcanism. In addition, they want to find out whether the moon could have had an icy crust or a subsurface ocean in the distant past.

Earlier, we talked about how the Juno spacecraft photographed an island in a lava lake on Io.

According to https://universemagazine.com

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