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Beyond Earthly Skies

Io’s Global Magma Ocean

27 Oct 2013, 10:00 UTC
Io’s Global Magma Ocean
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Figure 1: Io and Jupiter. Io has a diameter of 3,642 km, making it slightly larger than Earth’s Moon.Io, a moon of Jupiter, is the most volcanically active object in the Solar System. This is due to the large amount of tidal heating being generated within the moon’s interior as it is pulled between Jupiter and the other Galilean satellites - Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. The extensive volcanism and high temperature lavas on Io suggest the presence of a global layer of magma beneath its crust.The existence of such a subsurface global ocean of magma was determined by using Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field as a probe. At Io, induction caused by Jupiter’s magnetic field can be used to infer the conductivities and hence the properties of its subsurface layers. This is because the conductivity of rock material depends on its temperature and melt state. For instance, in comparison to solid rocks, fully or partially molten rocks have dramatically higher conductivities.Figure 2: This cross-sectional visualization shows the internal structure of Jupiter’s moon Io as revealed by data from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. A global magma ocean that is believed to be more than 50 km thick (shown in red-brown) underlies a low-density ...

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