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Jupiter Io's Largest Molten Moon Volcano May Erupt at Any Moment

Loki volcano erupted in Io in 1979, as captured by NASA's Voyager spacecraft 1. [19659003] Image: NASA / JPL / USGS

Observational data collected in recent years suggest the largest volcano in Jupiter's moon Io – the most geologically active object in the Solar System – will explode in midair of September, which is pretty much now.

When it comes to explosions, volcanoes tend to operate on their own unpredictable schedules. Such was not the case for Loki, however, the largest volcano in Io. When this matter breaks down, which is often done on a regular basis, it accounts for 15 percent of the total monthly expenditure. It is so powerful that 200-km wide (124 miles) that astronomers can observe its tantrums using ground-based telescopes, making the volcano less studied than Earth.

For the past 20 years, astronomer Julie Rathbun from the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona has watched in awe as this volcano erupts in terrifying regularity. His latest calculations suggest that Loki will fire in mid-September, as he told an audience today at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland, according to a press release issued by the Europlanet Society. Prior to this, Rathbun correctly predicted that Loki would explode in May 2018.

Loki, a retreating lake, is the dark horse-shaped structure seen on the far right.
Photo: NASA / JPL / USGS

In fact, Rathbun already knows this volcano. In 2002 he identified Loki as a seasonal volcano. By examining data collected from 1988 to 2000, he found that the white-horse erupted at about 540-day intervals. But after the moon, true to the god of the crook for which it was named, left the schedule during the 2000s, it exploded with little frequency and no visible pattern. That has changed since 2013, when Rathbun introduced a new schedule in which Loki exploded over a 475-day interval, with explosions lasting about 160 days.

Since 2013, Loki has exploded over a 475-day period.
Image: Julie A. Rathbun

Loki, suspected of being Rathbun suspected of being a large backwater lake (and unfortunately not a lost lava cake), is predictable due to its massive girth.

"Due to its size, basic physics is likely to dominate when it explodes, so the small complications affecting smaller volcanoes probably do not affect Loki," Rathbun said. stated in the release of the Europlanet Society.

In a brief paper compiled for the EPSC-DPS meeting, Rathbun stated that Loki "is a lake with a crust that stabilizes as it cools," and the "volume of time between eruption is the amount of time required for The crust will not be stable and therefore, related to the darkness of the lava. ”

But since Loki has a prior history of changing his schedule to a dime, Rathbun cautions that his latest prediction is not ironclad.

"Volcanoes are very difficult to predict because they are complex," he said. "There are many factors that influence volcanic eruptions, including magma supply rate, the composition of magma – especially the presence of magma bubbles, the type of rock that the volcano is sitting on, fractured state of the rock, and many more issues. ”

So, a super clean prediction for a super cool month. Hopefully we have something to report in the coming days.

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