Social Sciences Colombia , Colombia, Friday, April 10 of 2015, 10:11

Jupiter satellite similar to Earth in its beginnings

The volcanic activity from Io, a satellite of Jupiter is similar to that of Earth in its beginnings. This was a conclusion of the first research project on planetary volcanology carried out at UNal

UNal/DICYT According to UNal alumnus and US doctoral volcanology candidate, David Fernando Tovar, this discovery leads to the idea that comparing the situation of Earth with this Jupiter moon, volcanic activity is considerable greater in the latter.


For instance, if researchers measure the eruptive columns, which are the gas gushes that announce the beginning of a volcanic eruption at Io (name of one of Jupiter’s moons), they would be above 100 kms (62.1 miles) high, while on Earth they merely measure 51 km (31.8 miles).


With guidance from UNal Department of Geosciences Professor John Jairo Sánchez, Tovar compared the distribution of volcanoes on both celestial bodies with the purpose of chronologically comparing and trying to explain what happened on Earth or what could occur in the future. Considering that Io is the most volcanically active satellite of the solar system.


“There were more differences than similarities in the project, but we inferred that there is an association with the past,” said Sánchez.


The relationship posed by Sanchez and evidenced by Tovar’s research project was that the activity of Io is similar to what happened on Earth 4 billion years ago, when it was a primitive planet.


Io has random and heterogeneous volcanic activity due to the absence of tectonics in the plates. The same situation occurred on Earth as it did not have a hard crust and the material was basically plastic.


Earth was like that before the lithosphere was formed and the tectonic plates afterwards. Now this is the celestial body with the greatest volcanic activity in the solar system, due in part by the gravitational friction of Jupiter and the other moons.


Taking into account the same coordinate patterns of Earth, Io has greater volcanic activity between the tropical and equatorial areas and is less persistent in the poles.  


Although this is the first project on planetary vulcanism in Colombia, currently it is not the only one. UNal geologist and astronomy buff Fabián Saavedra, is also working on analogies between Earth and the volcanic activity of Enceladus, a satellite of Saturn.