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Volcanism and the tides of life 18 June 2009

Posted by admin in current research, solar system.
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If the tidal forces of strong gravitational fields are constantly twisting a planet’s guts like a strong man squeezing the pips out of a lemon and generating continual paroxysms of violent volcanism then it’s probably not an ideal environment for life, says a confused article from ScienceNOW (the ‘caps lock stuck’ people).

The foremost example of ‘tidal’ volcanism in the Solar System is Jupiter’s fascinating moon Io. The elliptical orbit which Io follows around Jupiter – the product of a complex interaction with its neighbouring satellites Europa and Ganymede – subjects it to varying strengths of gravitational pull, producing a constant flexing of the surface. It is this which drives Io’s constant and violent volcanic activity. However, New Scientist reports that a new French study of Io’s orbital motion reveals that Io is moving closer to Jupiter, while Europa and Ganymede are moving further away, so this situation won’t go on for ever. The end may come very quickly, they say: in 100 million years or less.

Recipe for life: water and a little lavaScienceNOW, 15 June 2009
Solar system’s most volcanic body to go dormantNew Scientist, 18 June 2009

The Volcanism Blog


1. Mike - 18 June 2009

Since the resonant orbital periods of Io, Europa and Ganymede have likely lasted for over 4 billion years, I find this very hard to believe. As a result of its extreme volcanism, Io is continually losing mass. This is most likely the key to predicting Io eventual fate. It will become small enough that the tidal forces will be insufficient to heat it any longer.

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