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Scientists Discover that Jupiter's Io’s Volcanoes Are In The Wrong Place [VIDEO]

Update Date: Apr 05, 2013 11:31 PM EDT
Jupiter
Jupiter's "pizza moon" lo was rocked by three powerful volcanic eruptions, which were the brightest in the Solar System, a new study has reported.
(Photo : NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) said that hundreds of volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io aren't where they're supposed to be.

With hundreds of volcanoes, some erupting lava fountains up to 250 miles high, Jupiter's moon Io is the most volcanically active world in our Solar System. Researchers said that concentrations of volcanic activity are significantly displaced from where they are expected to be based on models used to predict how the moon's interior is heated.

The findings of this study were published in a recent issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

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Io's clustered volcanoes seem to be lying 30 to 60 degrees eastward of where they were expected, according to a paper published this year in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, suggesting that the exotic, volcanic Jupiter moon Io is even more mysterious than researchers had previously thought. The study could shed light on the internal dynamics of Jupiter's volcano-pocked moon.

"It's really a place that's very much alive and very much changing," said study lead Christopher Hamilton, an Earth and planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

"The unexpected eastward offset of the volcano locations is a clue that something is missing in our understanding of Io," Hamilton said in a statement. "In a way, that's our most important result. Our understanding of tidal heat production and its relationship to surface volcanism is incomplete."

Hamilton called the results surprising and suggested some potential explanations. Perhaps it could be that Io is harboring a magma ocean within. Hamilton goes on to say that that would be an exciting discovery as Magma oceans were thought to be a mark of the early planets and moon as they formed and cooled.

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