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Jupiter’s Moon Io: Extreme Tidal and Volcanic Wonderland

Physics/Astro Auditorium

Jani Radebaugh (Brigham Young University)

April 25 @ 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

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Jupiter’s innermost large satellite, Io, is like the Moon in size but with a very different history and surface. Extreme tidal heating from its close proximity to Jupiter and an orbital resonance between Io, Europa and Ganymede has left Io’s interior hot and vigorously convecting. This makes Io a good analogue to the early Earth, where heat flow was likely around modern Io’s, about 10x that of today’s Earth. The tidal heating also informs our understanding of Europa, Io’s neighbor, and Enceladus, moon of Saturn, where liquid water is found in the interiors, making them important places to search for life outside Earth. The real allure of Io, however, is in the hundreds of active volcanoes, sky-high plumes and yellow-red hydrothermal areas that litter the surface. Io loses most of its heat through giant lakes of lava, one of which is twice as long as Puget Sound and releases as much as ¼ the total heat from the interior. Our studies of the temperatures and changes over time of lava lakes on Earth reveal that eruption temperatures, related to compositions, are visible from remote sensing and show that cooling is rapid for Earth conditions. These studies also help us understand Io’s behemoth lava lakes, as do Earth-based telescopic observations, but to really understand how hot Io’s volcanoes are, how much heat is flowing from Io, and how Io’s present and past help inform the history of Earth and other Solar System – and extrasolar – planets, we plan and hope for a dedicated Io space mission.