Io

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Io is the innermost of the four Galilean moons of the planet Jupiter and, with a diameter of 2,263 miles, the fourth-largest moon in the Solar System. It was named after Io, a priestess of Hera who became one of the lovers of Zeus.

With over 400 active volcanoes, Io is the most geologically active object in the Solar System. This extreme geologic activity is the result of tidal heating from friction generated within Io’s interior by Jupiter’s varying pull. Several volcanoes produce plumes of sulfur and sulfur dioxide that climb as high as 310 mi. Io’s surface is also dotted with more than 100 mountains that have been uplifted by extensive compression at the base of the moon’s silicate crust. Some of these peaks are taller than Earth’s Mount Everest. Unlike most satellites in the outer Solar System (which have a thick coating of ice), Io is primarily composed of silicate rock surrounding a molten iron or iron sulfide core. Most of Io’s surface is characterized by extensive plains coated with sulfur and sulfur dioxide frost.

Io’s volcanism is responsible for many of that satellite’s unique features. Its volcanic plumes and lava flows produce large surface changes and paint the surface in various shades of red, yellow, white, black, and green, largely due to the sulfurous compounds. Numerous extensive lava flows, several longer than 300 miles in length, also mark the surface. These volcanic processes have given rise to a comparison of the visual appearance of Io’s surface to a pizza. The materials produced by this volcanism provide material for Io’s thin, patchy atmosphere and Jupiter’s extensive magnetosphere.

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Io

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