The finding heralds the first direct confirmation of this kind of magma layer at Io and explains why the moon is the most volcanic object known in the solar system. The research was conducted by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Santa Cruz;, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The study is published this week in the journal Science.
“Scientists are excited we finally understand where Io’s magma is coming from and have an explanation for some of the mysterious signatures we saw in some of the Galileo’s magnetic field data,” said Krishan Khurana, lead author of the study and former co-investigator on Galileo’s magnetometer team at UCLA. “It turns out Io was continually giving off a ‘sounding signal’ in Jupiter’s rotating magnetic field that matched what would be expected from molten or partially molten rocks deep beneath the surface.”
Io produces about 100 times more lava each year than all the volcanoes on Earth. While Earth’s volcanoes occur in localized hotspots like the “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean, Io’s volcanoes are distributed all over its surface. A global magma ocean about 30 to 50 kilometers (20 to 30 miles) beneath Io’s crust helps explain the moon’s activity.