Crescent Io seen in approximately "natural" color by Voyager 2
in July 1979 from a distance of 1.1 million kilometers.
The innermost of Jupiter's four
planet-sized moons, Io is also one of the most volcanically active
bodies in the solar system. Voyager observed eight active volcanic plumes
in March and July 1979 and some of these have been monitored since using
infrared telescopes on Earth. Lava flows and irregularly shaped mountains
are also observed, but no craters (consistent with ongoing volcanic activity,
which would erase impact craters not long after they form). The composition
of these lavas and plumes remains uncertain. Are they silicate lavas
similar to those seen on Earth (for example Hawai'i and Mt. Etna)? Or are
they composed of liquid sulfur (which might account for Io's yellowish
color) or a combination? Io is the same size and density as
Earth's Moon. Why, then, is Io so volcanically active? The answer is that tides
on Io raised by both Europa and massive Jupiter
are so great that they continually heat and partially melt the interior of Io.
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Io & Jupiter
Stereo image of Io floating above the cloud decks of Jupiter, showing
the true difference in size between the planet and its moon.
These images were taken three minutes apart, and
the stereo effect results from the orbital motion of Io about Jupiter.
Io in "Natural" Color
Io appears in shades of
pastel yellow and white to the naked eye. This view, using orange, green,
and blue filter images, shows approximately how Io would appear to
passing humans. Features as small as 7 kilometers are visible.
(Gaps are due to missing data.)
Io in "Enhanced" Color
This view (of the same area as the image above)
takes advantage of Voyager's greater sensitivity in the blue and violet
wavelengths to produce an "enhanced-color" view. Color differences on Io
are more pronounced at these wavelengths, and using them allows geologists
to better discriminate individual features.
Volcanos and Mountains
This color mosaic extends from near the equator
(top of image) to the pole (bottom). A variety of lava flows and mountains
can be seen. Haemus Montes is the rectangular-shaped
mountain at lower left and Euboea Montes is the elliptical-shaped mountain
at center. Creidne Patera, a
large dark volcanic complex at image center, is a site of effusive
volcanism similar to volcanic calderas on Earth (such as Hawai'i).
Just above Creidne is Maasaw Patera, a series of radiating brownish
lava flows emanating from a volcanic caldera (or collapse pit). For scale,
this image is approximately 1900 kilometers from top to bottom, or slightly
larger than the state of Texas.
The Io Movie
This first-cut movie is based on stereo-derived topography of Io
(generated at LPI) combined with the above color mosaic to provide this
3-D rendering of the surface. An improved version is in production.
Haemus Montes, located near Io's south pole, rise approximately 10
kilometers above the surrounding plains (Mount Everest rises almost 9
kilometers above sea level). The origin of these and
other similar mountains, which cover about 2% of Io's surface,
is uncertain. They are possible evidence of tectonic
deformation predating most of the volcanic material that surrounds them.
Haemus Montes in 3-D
Red-green stereo glasses can be used with this image to
see Haemus Montes in 3-D.
More Volcanos and Mountains
Enhanced color mosaic of a portion of Io
from approximately 0° to 60° latitude and from -60° to 10° longitude.
A persistent thermal hotspot named "Kanehekili" is located just north of
the rectangular bright orange patch in the upper left quadrant of the scene.
Voyager also imaged an active volcanic plume in the vicinity of the large
Y-shaped black patch (a lava flow?) at bottom left.
ACTIVE VOLCANOS ON IO
Loki & Loki Patera
Loki is one of the most persistent volcanic areas on Io and has been
monitored from Earth almost continuously since it was discovered by Voyager 1
in March 1979. The dark, horseshoe-shaped feature is thought to be
a lava lake, partially filled with dark, possibly basaltic, lava. An active
volcanic plume, arcing over 150 kilometers into space, can be seen
near image center (the blue-gray wispy features extending from
the left end of the long, dark, gash-like feature). This is one of eight active
plumes observed by Voyager in 1979.
Prometheus, another plume observed by Voyager in 1979, is seen in this
triptych of three views taken over a 6-hour span. The Promethus plume
extends upward 70 kilometers into space before falling on the surface
125 kilometers from the central vent. The plume somewhat resembles an umbrella,
with several prominent dark radial spokes comprised of optically
thick concentrations of plume material. The plume may be composed of sulfur
dioxide explosively heated within the crust of Io.
The first image is a black-and-white image, the second shows the area in approximately natural color, the
third view shows the area in enhanced color (emphasizing blues and violets
where color difference between geologic units on Io is more pronounced).
Prometheus can also be viewed in 3-D. Focus on two adjacent images, and allow
your eyes to cross until the two images merge. (Red-green stereo glasses
do not work on this image.)
Prometheus in 3-D
Red-green stereo glasses can be used on this image to
see the Prometheus plume in 3-D.
Vent source of the Pele plume, observed by Voyager in March 1979.
This was the largest plume observed by Voyager, extending ~500 kilometers
in all directions from the source (the plume itself extends beyond
the limits of this image). The eruption source
is the small dark spot at the eastern (right) end of the linear fissure
near the center of the frame.
Ra Patera is the largest shield volcano on Io. Shield volcanos, like
Hawai'i, are large volcanic edifices composed of numerous overlapping lava
flows. They are called shields because they form broad convex domes with
low slopes. Dark linear flows radiate from the center of Ra. Some have
speculated that these flows are composed of sulfur, although many do not
agree with this interpretation. Ra Patera was not active when Voyager passed
in 1979, but Hubble Space Telescope observations in 1995 and 1996
indicate that a major change has taken place at this location, quite
likely a major volcanic eruption. Galileo should obtain new images
of this area that will hopefully reveal the origin of these changes.
All images by Paul M. Schenk, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX.
©Lunar and Planetary Institute, 1997
Supplemental Reading Materials
Beatty J. K., O'Leary B., and Chaikin A., eds. (1990) The New Solar System. Sky Publishing Corporation,
Cambridge, Massachusetts; Cambridge University Press, New York. 326 pp.
Moons and Rings (1991) Voyage Through the Universe series. Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia. 144 pp.
Rothery D. (1992) Satellites of the Outer Planets. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 208 pp.
McEwen A. et al. (1989) Dynamic geophysics of Io. In Time-Variable Phenomenon in the Jovian System, pp. 11-46, NASA Special Publication 494.
Morrison D., ed. (1982) Satellites of Jupiter. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. 972 pp.
Nash D. et al. (1986) Io. In Satellites (J. Burns and M. Matthews, eds.), p. 629, University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Spencer J. and Schneider N. (1996) Io on the eve of the Galileo mission. Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Science, 24, 125.
Schenk P. et al. (1997) Geology and topography of Ra Patera, Io, in the Voyager era: Prelude to eruption. Geophys. Res. Lett., 24, 2467-2470.