Scientists found huge volcanic waves in a molten lava lake identified on Jupiter’s moon Io as Loki Patera. Io is volcanically active, and this is the first time that a wave of lava has been caught using the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory.
Io is the fourth biggest Jovian moon. The Loki Patera is an active volcanic crater that occupies roughly 127 miles across the satellite surface.
Astronomers examined images clicked on March 8, 2015, when Jupiter’s moon Europa moved directly in front of Io. This enabled scientists to isolate the heat signatures coming from the surface of Io and also presented them with a fascinating insight into its volcanic activity.
In an interview with Ashley Davies, the study’s co-author and an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he said the heat signature showed not one, but two resurfacing waves moving around the patera. He said it was much more complicated than their earlier thought.
What Does the Finding Explain?
Using the data collected from the infrared image readings, astronomers were able to distinguish the temperatures on the surface of Io. The temperature towards the western end of the Loki Patera was only 26 degrees Fahrenheit, while it rose to around 134 degrees Fahrenheit in the southeastern portion of the crater.
This observation led the scientists to decide that the lava in the crater had upturned and had done so in two waves. Each wave started in the west and moved toward the southeastern end at a pace of 3,300 feet each day.
Overturn is a term used when the top layer of the lava cools and hardens, which then sinks it into the hot and molten lava. When the solid part sinks, some of the liquid lava runs over the surface of the lake. Astronomers said that this continuous cycle of lava hardening and immersing would explain the recurrent brightening and dimming of the crater.
Astronomers also insisted that the molten lava on the western end of Loki Patera was exposed to the surface for about 180 to 230 days before the pictures were taken. However, the lava on the southeastern side was exposed for approximately 75 days. This illustrated why the western region appeared dimmer when compared to the southeastern end.
Scientists also verified that the speed at which the lava overturned varied in the various regions. This was likely as a result of the composition of the lava and the dissolved gasses in the magma’s bubbles.
The outcomes and conclusions of the study have been published in the issue of the journal Nature on May 10.