white-tide

I throw my plumes up into space sometimes, sayin’ Io…

This has to be the most breathtakingly awesome eruption since Eddie Van Halen dipped the whammy bar down back in 1978.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured this blast spewing up from Jupiter’s moon Io back in 2007, as it passed by on its way to Pluto (which it will reach next summer … it’s really far away). That plume rises more than 330 kilometers (200+ miles) into space, nearly the altitude that the International Space Station orbits above Earth! 

Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system. So many eruptions take place on Io that no impact craters survive, they are constantly filled in by fresh material from the moon’s interior. In fact, Io holds the title for “most powerful eruption ever recorded in the solar system”, back in 2001.

So … Y-IO U SO MAD?

Next to the sun, Jupiter is the most massive object in the solar system. Jupiter’s gravity, combined with the gravitational influence of Io’s fellow moons Europa and Ganymede, tugs and pulls on Io, causing it to be squished and squeezed to the extreme during an orbit around its home planet.

This massive tidal force causes Io’s crust to distort by as much as 100 meters in either direction. Imagine a 100 meter-high tide! Made of land! This causes an extreme amount of friction and tidal heating beneath the crust, essentially cooking Io via squeezing and tugging. As a result, it regularly blows its top in spectacular fashion.

Just another day in the continuing evolution of our solar system!