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Io Infrared View
Infrared View Of Io's Volcanoes | Photo by Nasa/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/inaf/Jram Roman Tkachenko

Active Volcanoes Are All Over The Earth, but even in space?

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It’s hard to believe, but there are 60 active volcanoes on planet earth right now. We here in the Pacific Northwest live at one end of what is called “The ring of fire.”

Ring Of Fire
Ring Of Fire | Image by

Many of us experienced the pyroclastic eruption of Mt. St. Helens on May 18, 1980. There are many other volcanoes spread out over the Pacific Northwest, but for the most part they have been dormant, sleeping, for many years. We have all seen closeup pictures of the moon that is pockmarked with craters which have been explained as impact craters caused by space debris such as meteors.

Voyager Launch
Voyager Launch 9/5/77 | Photo by

You might remember that back on September 5, 1977 NASA launched the Voyager 1 spacecraft to study the outer solar system it’s twin Voyager 2 was launched 16 days earlier.

Voyager Gold Record
Voyager Gold Record | Photo by

One of the things that made Voyager unique was that it had a special cargo. That was a specially made gold record with greetings from earth in 55 languages, with 115 images, a variety of natural sounds, and various musical selections from around the world. As it approached Jupiter it came within eye-shot of the planet’s closest moon Io. Scientists thought it would be similar to our moon with a lot of impact craters, but recently it has been proven to be a very active moon. Active with many volcanoes.

Voyager-1 Spacecraft | Image by

According to an article on the titled These bright spots are alien volcanoes written by Marina Koren “The first plume was spotted by Linda Morabito, an engineer on Voyager’s imaging team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as she sorted through the spacecraft’s data. The photograph was the first evidence of volcanic activity somewhere besides the earth.” Her discovery was made in 1979.

Io Infrared View
Infrared View Of Io’s Volcanoes | Photo by Nasa/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/inaf/Jram Roman Tkachenko

The best image of Io’s active volcanoes was taken by the Juno spacecraft. The infrared picture was taken by Juno’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper instrument. The bright spots are the active volcanoes.

Juno Spacecraft
Juno Spacecraft | Image by

Juno was launched  from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 5, 2011. It entered orbit around Jupiter July 4, 2016 and remains in orbit today.

Io's Volcanoes
Io’s Active Volcanoes Labeled | Image by Nasa/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/inaf/Jram Roman Tkachenko

An amateur astronomer and music producer, Roman Tkachenko from Kursk, Russia who is one of the dozens of people assembling raw Juno data, created the spectacular image of Io’s Volcanic activity. Quoting the article: “Io’s vulcanism is the result of a phenomenon known as tidal heating. Io orbits between Jupiter and the planet’s other large moons, Europa and Ganymede. This configuration means Io is constantly experiencing the gravitational pull of both its parent planet and its sibling moons. The tugging heats up Io’s interior and melts rock to produce magma that spews out from beneath the surface when it can find a crack.” The flowing lava moves along the moon’s surface filling up old impact craters and solidifies changing Io’s surface features.

The question does arise as to what all of this means. Honestly, I don’t know, but the more we know about the universe out there the better our chances to understand more about our own earth and moon.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].


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