During the middle of 2013, Jupiter’s moon Io came alive with volcanism. Now, an image from the Gemini Observatory captures what is one of the brightest volcanoes ever seen in our solar system.
The image, obtained on August 29, reveals the magnitude of the eruption that was the “grand finale” in a series of eruptions on the distant moon. Io’s volcanism is caused by the tidal push-and-pull of massive Jupiter, which heats the satellite’s interior – making it our Solar System’s most volcanically active known body.
Figure 1. Image of Io taken in the near-infrared with adaptive optics at the Gemini North telescope on August 29. In addition to the extremely bright eruption on the upper right limb of the satellite, the lava lake Loki is visible in the middle of Io’s disk, as well as the fading eruption that was detected earlier in the month by de Pater on the southern (bottom) limb. Io is about one arcsecond across. Image credit: Katherine de Kleer/UC Berkeley/Gemini Observatory/AURA
Figure 2. Images of Io taken in the near-infrared with adaptive optics at the Gemini North telescope tracking the evolution of the eruption as it decreased in intensity over 12 days. Due to Io’s rapid rotation, a different area of the surface is viewed on each night; the outburst is visible with diminishing brightness on August 29 & 30 and September 1, 3, & 10. Image credit: Katherine de Kleer/UC Berkeley/Gemini Observatory/AURA
According to University of California Berkeley (UCB) astronomer Katherine de Kleer, the Gemini observations, “… represent the best day-by-day coverage of such an eruption – thanks to Gemini’s rapid and flexible scheduling capabilities.” De Kleer, who led one of a pair of two papers published today in the journal Icarus, adds that the Gemini data allowed the team to monitor the evolution of the extreme volcanic activity over nearly the first two weeks of the eruption – which provided a critical new perspective on the outburst events.
De Kleer’s paper examines the powerful late-August eruption in detail, concluding that the energy emitted was about 20 Terawatts and expelled many cubic kilometers of lava. “At the time we observed the event, an area of newly-exposed lava on the order of tens of square kilometers was visible” says de Kleer. “We believe that it erupted in fountains from long fissures on Io’s surface, which were over ten-thousand-times more powerful than the lava fountains during the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland, for example.”
The original detection of the volcano was made simultaneously at Gemini and NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF), and was the first of a series of observations monitoring Io at both facilities over the following year. These particular observations were timed to follow up on a different outburst eruption that was detected earlier in the month by Imke de Pater, also of UCB.
This record of the spate of activity began when de Pater first spotted a hotspot using the W.M. Keck Observatory in mid-August (see UCB press release, also released today at: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/08/04/a-hellacious-two-weeks-on-jupiters-moon-io/), which the team followed with further observations from Mauna Kea. The late August Gemini observations of the most extreme outburst (see Figure 1) used adaptive optics on the Gemini North telescope to produce this super-sharp near-infrared image. Gemini also recorded a series of images chronicling the massive eruption’s evolution as it faded over the next 12 days (see Figure 2).
In addition to de Kleer and de Pater, the lead authors on the two publications discussing these events, the research team included Máté Ádámkovics of UCB, Ashley Davies from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and David Ciardi of Caltech's NASA Exoplanet Science Institute. The work is funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA’s Outer Planets Research and Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program.
The papers are available in the journal Icarus (subscription required).
Public Information and Outreach Manager
Gemini Observatory, Hilo, HI
Cell: (808) 936-6643
Desk: (808) 974-2510
Katherine de Kleer
University of California Berkeley
Imke de Pater
University of California Berkeley
Peter Michaud | Eurek Alert!
UNLV study unlocks clues to how planets form
13.12.2018 | University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Unprecedented Views of the Birth of Planets
13.12.2018 | Universität Heidelberg
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
13.12.2018 | Life Sciences
13.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
13.12.2018 | Earth Sciences