This new map was published last Monday by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and it showcases the hellish surface of Jupiter’s moon Io, the most volcanically active object in the Solar System. The creation of the map took over six years, and the map itself identifies 425 volcanoes as well as lava flow fields, squat mountains, deposits left by volcanic plumes, and plains rich in sulfur dioxide.
This will allow researchers to test models about Io’s interior and to better understand the formation of volcanoes and mountains on its surface.
The massive geological activity is due to Io’s interactions with Jupiter and its sister moons, Europa, and Ganymede. The gravitational forces stretch and flex Io’s thin crust, generating roughly 25 times the volcanic activity found on Earth, on an object half the size of Earth.
The maps were created by combining images from NASA’s two Voyager flybys in the 1970s, as well as images from the Galileo Orbiter, which circled Jupiter from 1995 to 2003. Io’s surface changes constantly, so astronomers will have to rely on telescopes to note any new volcanic eruptions. Io’s surface also lacks craters, since as soon as meteorites hit its surface, the craters themselves are wiped clean by lava flows.
Io also doesn’t have high mountains because it doesn’t have enough silica to produce steep cinder cones. Io is like a mirror of ancient Earth, the way that Earth’s surface was billions of years ago.