Jupiter’s moon Io is a violent world. Complete with wildly violent lava lake that is huge! Tormented by the gravitation forces of Jupiter, with frequent eruptions of sulfur and lava, Io is the most geologically active body in the entire solar system. Now, scientists have revealed the most complete look ever at the largest lake on Io.
In a recent paper published in Nature, researchers led by the University of California, Berkeley, detailed how they were able to study the largest lake not from spacecraft imagery, but from observing Europa pass in front in March 2015. They were able to witness waves move across Loki Patera, Io’s biggest lava lake. Loki Patera measures more than 125 miles across—in contrast, Earth’s biggest lava lake is 650 feet across.
“We saw two waves within the patera that hadn’t been seen before, with different velocities and start times,” Katherine de Kleer, lead author on the paper, told reporters at IFLScience. “This tells us there’s some complex system underneath the volcano.”
Researchers also noted that the lake was increasing in temperature from one side to the other, from 270 in the west to 330 Kelvin in the east. This suggests that it had “overturned”—a process where a crust forms on the surface and then becomes unstable and sinks into the lava, exposing new magma. This new magma then cools, forms new crust, and the process repeats.
“This is the first useful map of the entire patera,” said co-author Ashley Davies from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California in a statement. “It shows not one but two resurfacing waves sweeping around the patera. This is much more complex than what was previously thought.”
The astronomers also confirmed an island in the center of Loki Patera that has been there since
Voyager photographed the region in 1979.
Source: Forbes, IFL Science