Feeds

Jupiter's Io a hotbed of lava

Moon's OCEAN of MAGMA drives spectacular volcanism

Security for virtualized datacentres

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). ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
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?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.