Feeds

Jupiter's Io a hotbed of lava

Moon's OCEAN of MAGMA drives spectacular volcanism

Business security measures using SSL

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). ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
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.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.