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Lo: Jupiter's Volcanic Moon

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Published on June 21st, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie


Lo: Jupiter’s Volcanic Moon


Jupiter’s Lo

Lo is a strange oddity. Under normal conditions it should not be able to do what it does. Nonetheless, this mystery is not the first thing that immediately greets anyone gazing at this strange satellite.

Jupiter’s Lo is an amazing spectacle to behold. Its appearance scarcely seem possible, certainly not in the natural world. Its vibrant, golds, greens and spots of bright orange and red are stunning. These hues seem to compound just how radically different this satellite is to our Earth.

A Heated Interior

At 3,600 km (2,250 miles) in width, Lo is a considerable size for a satellite and is larger than our Moon. Beyond Mars, it should be too cold for bodies the size of the moon to have volcanic systems and heated interiors. Yet Jupiter’s satellite has these.

The Moon’s interior is thought to contain hot, molten sulphur and silicates in its mantle. It’s core is believed to be either iron or iron sulphide. The thin crust is composed of silicate rock.

Odd Orbits

Jupiter’s Lo orbits Jupiter once every 42 and a half hours at a distance of 350,000 km (217,000 miles). However, it is its interaction with the neighbouring Galilean moons of Europa and Ganymede that causes interesting phemonena.

For every two orbits completed by the volcanic moon, Europa orbits Jupiter once. In the case of Ganeymede the ratio is four to one. These are called orbital resonances which cause gravitational tugs. The syncronicities have a peculiar side-effect which accounts for Lo being the most volancically active world in the Solar System.

Lo, Ganymede and Europa's Orbits Around Jupiter

The orbital resonances, which are gravitational tugs, that the satellite is subject to keeps its path around Jupiter eccentric as opposed to circular. This keeps the satellite orbiting Jupiter at a constant distance. This prevents the moon from being pushed away by Jupiter’s tides as in case our own Moon which is gradually retreating from the Earth.

Tidal Heating And Moving Walls Of Rock

The powersource of Lo comes for the tides. Jupiter’s vast size and gravitation pull, coupled with the moon’s near proximity, means that the satellite is subject to enormous tides which have been estimated to be as much as 100 metres or more (300 feet) depending on the distance the moon is to the planet.

Lo Jupiter's Galilean Moon

This tide is unlike anything seen on Earth although it adheres to the exact same principles. Instead of water being raised by the gravitational pull on both sides of the moon, as what happens on Earth, a solid wall of rock is pulled from the surface. Like on Earth at anyone time there are two tidal bulges.

These massive tides are the powerhouse which heats up Lo’s interior and cause great volcanic bursts of sulphuric lava.

Check out Tides: Forces We Take For Granted for further insight.

Interaction With Jupiter’s Magnetosphere

Lo’s interaction with Jupiter’s magnetosphere causes odd radio transmissions. These can be heard on Earth on normal car radios whenever our planet’s intersects Jupiter’s enormous magnetosphere, the largest object in the Solar System.

Check out Jupiter: The Gas Giant Of The Solar System for further into into this fascinating phenomena. Here is a video of these transmissions.

Jupiter’s Effects And Lo’s Volcanic Bent

The tides caused on Lo cause massive amounts of friction and superheat the interior creating massive quantities of energy. The energy is released in volcanic eruptions which pour molten sulphurous lava on the moon’s surface.

Tvashtar Catena, Lo, An Volcanic Eruption

There is another type of volcanic phenomena on Lo that is thought to be the satellite’s equivalent of geysers. However, instead of steam that is superheated by molten lava beneath the surface, plumes of sulphur dioxide burst into the moon’s thin atmosphere.

Highly Recommended Reading

Check out Jupiter: The Local Gas Giant Of The Solar System for more insight into the largest planet in the Solar System and The Moons Of Jupiter: The Solar System Within The Solar System to examine its moons in more detail.

You may also wish to take a gander at The Solar System And Beyond: A Guide To The Cosmos.

Cosmos is a highly recommended book. It contains large, full-page pictures of the asteroids and writing on the subject by the highly competent author, Giles Sparrow.

For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Cosmos from here.

For those who live in Canada, you can obtain: Cosmos here.

For Germany: Cosmos.

For France: Cosmos.

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