The solar system’s most volcanically active place

by Peter Barnes

Volcanically active place: Earth’s volcanic makeup, which accounts for more than 80% of its surface, is a potential landmine (via USGS). Scientists have found that Earth’s volcanic past had a big impact on its constantly changing landscape, which explains why the surface of our home planet is so, let’s say, explosive.

Even now, molten volcanic ash eruptions have an impact on a number of weather-related factors. Volcanic ash and gas have a significant impact on our planet’s weather patterns, with the potential for our world to be completely engulfed by a gigantic volcanic cloud (per the USGS).

It is more accurate to view volcanic activity as an influential force that shapes our environment rather than the catastrophic occurrences that we typically identify it with, such as the destruction of Pompeii. “Tectonic plates and volcanic materials are known to carve mountains, islands, and more,” claims National Geographic.

And that’s only the surface of things. It is clear from a careful look through a telescope that volcanic activity is not just on Earth. If you take an even broader view of the world, you will see that the solar system is practically bursting at the seams with active volcanoes. In particular, one unexpected location is spewing miles of lava into the sky (per NASA).

The most volcanic area of the solar system


Volcanically active place: CNN reports that the most volcanic region in the solar system is on the moon IO, one of Jupiter’s moons, according to NASA experts who have been studying Jupiter.

When you consider the strongly volcanic beginnings of Earth (according to the USGS) and other locations in the solar system like Triton, one of Neptune’s moons, which spews out ice volcanoes measuring minus 300 degrees, this is really saying something (per the Chicago Tribune).

Io, Jupiter’s third biggest known moon, is described by NASA as “a genuine volcanic paradise with hundreds of erupting volcanoes” spilling lava into space. This region is a molten ash hotspot where volcanic lava shoots out many kilometers into the air.

The surface temperature of Io is minus 202 degrees Fahrenheit, although Space claims that its volcanoes may burn at a rate of roughly 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Io has the moniker “celestial body of fire and ice” thanks to this unusual circumstance.

Io appears to be an uninhabitable planet, at least for the kind of life that mankind is familiar with, due to its extreme levels of volcanism and unfathomable radiation. However, there is still room for the potential of alien life that goes against what people would think, such as creatures that might survive nuclear blasts and mile-high lava flows (per NASA).

Gravitational pull is the cause of Io’s volcanic activity.

Ianm35/Getty Images

When we think of space, we frequently imagine a complete lack of gravity, seeing alien things aimlessly gliding across a sky filled with whirling stars and planets in orbit.

But according to NASA, gravity is probably present almost everywhere in the solar system, albeit in much smaller amounts than on Earth. The planets and moons are held in place by a type of gravity known as microgravity.

Similarly, it is thought that gravity is what propels Io’s intense volcanic activity. According to NASA, the location of Io between Jupiter and the two moons Europa and Ganymede is largely to blame for the spacecraft’s erupting lava and flowing magma.

Jupiter’s gravitational pull is 2.5 times stronger than Earth’s, claims Universe Today. Io is trapped between this powerful gravitational pull and the two previously stated moons. These heavenly bodies squeeze Io as they circle and revolve about it as they move through space, changing its form and causing its surface to bulge both vertically and horizontally.

The University of California, Berkeley, defines tidal heating as “the repeated deformation of a body (for example, a moon) due to tides from another body (for example, a planet), which results in heating of the former’s interior.” This process produces enormous amounts of tidal heating.

The interior of Io is 20 times hotter than that of Earth.

Artsiom P/Shutterstock

In the scientific community, tidal heating is a hot topic since many people think it is a crucial factor affecting all the planets in the cosmos. Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist, says that tidal heating is an important idea that we are still trying to fully understand (via NASA).

He said there are still a lot of questions about where and how tidal heat is made inside a planet or moon, how it gets to the surface, and what effect this has on planets all over the universe.

What we do know is that Io’s internal temperatures have increased dramatically due to tidal heating. This volcanic moon’s interior is thought to have a heat flow that is twenty times greater than that of Earth. This makes this planet the ideal location to solve some of the greatest puzzles the cosmos has to offer.

According to CNN, NASA scientists have already started a mission to look into these celestial volcanoes and determine how they might affect Jupiter, other planets, and the solar system as a whole.

Overflying this volcanic hotspot

NASA images/Shutterstock

According to CNN, taking pictures of the solar system’s most volcanic world is the mission that the Juno spacecraft has been given. Initially, Juno was intended to study Jupiter, a large, quickly rotating planet with the iconic Great Red Spot, which is essentially a perpetually developing storm (via NPR).

But on July 5, 2022, the orbiting spacecraft captured mesmerizing infrared images of Io from a distance of about 50,000 miles. Scientists became curious about the network of erupting volcanoes and wondered what impact they might be having on Jupiter and other planets.

On December 15, 2022, the Juno spacecraft was directed toward Io with this new objective in mind. If all goes as planned, Juno will pass Io nine times over the course of 18 months, filming the volcanism from as close as 930 miles away.

Scott Bolton, the head of the Juno investigation, stated in a CNN statement: “The Juno team is very eager for the extended mission to include research on Jupiter’s moons.” “We have been able to learn a ton of fresh information with each close pass.”

Related: New research on an ancient jaw fossil has rewritten the history of birds

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