Two Enormous Waves Of Lava Are Sweeping Over Jupiter’s Io

enormous waves of lava

Researchers believe that Io’s Loki Patera is swept periodically by two enormous waves of lava.


A closer examination of Jupiter’s Io brought evidence that surging lava may be flowing over its molten lava lake, the Loki Patera. These waves of lava may be acting just as such a system would usually do on Earth’s watery oceans.

The Large Binocular Telescope Observatory helped detect changes in temperature across the lava lake. These indicated two enormous waves might be coursing across it. This came as quite a surprise, as previous observations had only hinted at the existence of one wave of lava.

Two Very Hot, Enormous Waves of Lava Sweeping Across this Lake

Jupiter’s Io is one of the most volcanically-active moons in our solar system. Scientists are paying special attention to it, as they believe it may be similar to an extremely primitive Earth. This kind of volcanic activity is also rare among the celestial bodies orbiting the Sun.

The study used infrared data from the Observatory taken on March 8, 2015. This was quite a special day as the icy moon, Europa, lined up perfectly and aided scientists in their examination of Io. What they found was a steady increase in temperature from the western edge of the Loki Patera to its southeastern “shore”.

The fluctuation varied over 55 degrees centigrade. According to the scientists, this may indicate that the lake was overturning in two enormous waves moving at about a kilometer per day.

When the hot lava at the bottom of those lakes rises, it cools. In its turn, this causes it to become denser. It then once again sinks to the bottom of the lake. But there it is believed to heats up again and expand. Which causes it to once again rise to the surface. This cyclical motion is not unlike that on the surface of our oceans.

“Interestingly, the overturning started at different times on two sides of a cool island in the center of the lake that has been there ever since Voyager photographed it in 1979,” said Imke de Pater, a study co-author.
The phenomenon could also explain a regular fluctuation in brightness of the lava lake, as the hotter magma is more incandescent. Scientists predict that the next alignment with Europe will take place in 2021, for which they are already ready. Current study results were published in the journal Nature.
Image Source: FreeGreatPicture

About Marlene R. Litten

Marlene has always been a journalist at heart, though her wordsmithing capabilities helped her contribute to a multitude of blogs before finally settling for the online press. She strongly advocates for those treated unjustly and likes to cover US and World news.