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In Brief

Volcanic Heat on Io Hides Secrets

12 June 2012

Io landscape with dots representing thermal emission (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Bear Fight Institute)

A new study finds that the pattern of heat coming from volcanoes on the surface of Jupiter’s moon Io doesn’t match the generally accepted model of internal heating on Io.

A new study finds that the pattern of heat coming from volcanoes on the surface of Jupiter’s moon Io doesn’t match the generally accepted model of internal heating on Io.

The heat pouring out of Io’s hundreds of erupting volcanoes indicates a complex, multilayer source. These results come from data collected by NASA spacecraft and ground-based telescopes and appear in the June issue of the journal Icarus.

This map of hot spots, classified by the amount of heat being emitted, shows the global distribution and wide range of volcanic activity on Io. The bigger the spot, the larger the thermal emission. Most of Io’s eruptions dwarf their contemporaries on Earth.

“This is the most comprehensive study of Io’s volcanic thermal emission to date,” said Glenn Veeder of the Bear Fight Institute in Winthrop, Washington, who led the work of a multifaceted scientific team. “The fascinating thing about the distribution of the heat flow is that it is not in keeping with the current preferred model of tidal heating of Io at relatively shallow depths.”

“The pattern that emerges points to a complex heating process within Io,” said Dennis Matson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “What we see indicates a mixture of both deep and shallow heating.”

For more on the Io study, see the NASA press release.