Feeds

Jupiter's Io a hotbed of lava

Moon's OCEAN of MAGMA drives spectacular volcanism

The essential guide to IT transformation

Scientists perusing data from NASA's Galileo spacecraft have concluded that the spectacular volcanism displayed by Jupiter's moon Io is caused by a substantial subsurface magma ocean.

A team from the University of California and the University of Michigan looked at "unexplained signatures [which] appeared in magnetic field data from Galileo flybys of Io in October 1999 and February 2000".

These signatures suggested the presence of "ultramafic" igneous rocks, which are "capable of carrying substantial electrical current when melted". NASA explains: "Tests showed that the signatures detected by Galileo were consistent with a rock such as lherzolite, an igneous rock rich in silicates of magnesium and iron found in Spitzbergen, Norway."

The scientists have estimated that Io's magma ocean is some 50km (30 miles) thick, and bubbling away at a temperature above 1,200°C. Its presence under a low-density crust of around 30 to 50km (20 to 30 miles) explains why the moon's volcanoes are dotted all over its surface, rather than in "localised hotspots" as happens at the boundaries of Earth's tectonic plates.

NASA image of Io

Torrence Johnson, a former Galileo project scientist, said of Io's hotbed of lava: "It has been suggested that both the Earth and its moon may have had similar magma oceans billions of years ago at the time of their formation, but they have long since cooled.

"Io's volcanism informs us how volcanoes work and provides a window in time to styles of volcanic activity that may have occurred on the Earth and moon during their earliest history," Johnson said.

The findings are published in this week's Science (subscription required for the full-fat article). ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?