Scientists detect massive lava waves on Jupiter's moon Io

Overturning lava is a popular explanation for the periodic brightening and dimming of the hot spot, called Loki Patera after the Norse god.

By Zee Media Bureau | Updated: May 11, 2017, 17:30 PM IST
Scientists detect massive lava waves on Jupiter's moon Io

New Delhi: Scientists have spotted two massive waves sweeping across the largest lava lake on Jupiter's moon Io.

Taking advantage of a rare orbital alignment between two of Jupiter's moons, Io and Europa, researchers at University of California (UC) Berkeley have obtained an exceptionally detailed map of the largest lava lake on Io.

On March 8 in 2015, Europa passed in front of Io, gradually blocking out light from the volcanic moon.

Since Europa's surface is coated in water ice, it reflects very little sunlight at infrared wavelengths, allowing researchers to accurately isolate the heat emanating from volcanoes on Io's surface.

The infrared data showed that the surface temperature of Io's massive molten lake steadily increased from one end to the other, suggesting that the lava had overturned in two waves that each swept from west to east at about a kilometre per day.

Overturning lava is a popular explanation for the periodic brightening and dimming of the hot spot, called Loki Patera after the Norse god.

The most active volcanic site on Io, Loki Patera is about 200 kilometres across. The hot region of the patera has a surface area of 21,500 square kilometres.

(With PTI inputs)