Io: One Cool Volcanic Moon

I would have called it a hot moon, but most of the surface is at -135°C (-216°F)!

Most of the yellow and orange hues of Io are d...Way too far away for us to see without special equipment is the moon Io [eye-oh]. It is the 4th largest moon in the solar system travelling around the biggest planet. It is constantly surrounded by a haze of sulfur and other gases, but this is only the beginning of how extraordinary it is.

Io is the only moon in the solar system to have no impact craters on its surface (think of how many our own has). This is because Io is jam-packed with volcanoes. Ever since we developed strong enough instruments to see what was happening, we have observed volcano after volcano erupting, covering the ground with fresh lava.

Because Io is much smaller than earth and has much lower gravity, it can spray material from inside it way up in the sky. Some of these plumes have been seen as high as 400 km (250 miles) above the surface. This tells us the stuff being spewed out is under a lot of pressure, because if you put Old Faithful on Io, it’s spray would only climb to 35 km (22 miles).

What’s even more amazing is the stuff being sent skyward. It’s not water and it’s not lava, it’s sulfur dioxide! Then, once it escapes the hot interior of the moon, it freezes into snowflake-like crystals. We first ran into these (literally) when our space probe, Galileo travelled right through one of these plumes so we could study the particles (thanks, God!).

English: Interaction of Io with the magnetosph...

Interaction of Io with the magnetosphere of Jupiter. Io’s torus is shown in yellow.

Not only is Io voluntarily sending some of its material out into space, Jupiter is grabbing more from it all the time. Io orbits in a strong area of Jupiter’s magnetic field and this pull strips away about a ton of particles every second forming a sort of donut shaped ring (called a tarus) around the planet.

Besides being covered in volcanoes, Io also has some spectacular nonvolcanic mountains. Its tallest peak (Boösaule Montes) stands at 17 km [10,6 mi] high. Earth and Mars have taller mountains, but remember, Io is much smaller than we are.

As for the volcanoes themselves, the lava they spew out is way hotter than the kind we have on Earth. The average temperature for Io’s flowing rocks is 1600 C [2912 F], the usual range for Earth’s lava is from 700-1250 C [1292-2282 F].

BTW the hotter the lava, the thinner, so it’s less likely to explode.

Before we were able to directly observe this moon, scientists would have told you it would be impossible for it to be the way it is. If the solar system were really billions of years old, there should be no way for such a small object, so far away from the sun to still be so hot.

So, have they thrown up their hands and admitted, “we were wrong, God knew what he was talking about all the time”? Of course not. They figured out a way to believe Io could hold onto heat for so long.

Ganymede Europa Io Jupiter Callisto

Ganymede Europa Io Jupiter Callisto

Every page I ran into on Io talked about the huge tides it has and boy are they cool! Io isn’t the only moon orbiting Jupiter, and two of them are large and close to it. Every time Io goes around Jupiter once, it passes near Ganymede four times and Europa twice. The pull from these moons changes Io’s shape by 100 m (330 feet) each time they pass each other.

This creates a lot of heat.

But not enough to explain how the inside of the moon could stay so hot for so long. It also can’t explain why the heavy stuff such hot lava is made of would still be near the surface to flow out.

To find out more, keep reading:

Creation Ministries International: Young Solar System (scroll down a little to the Io section)

Institute for Creation Research:

Spewing Hot Rocks on Old Ideas

Despite ‘Magma Ocean’ Discovery, Io’s Volcanic Heat Remains a Mystery

Plus, Io isn’t the only “too hot” moon: Heat of Saturn Moon Far Surpasses Long-age Expectations

I got the idea for this article from the Vol. 35 No.4 issue of Creation Magazine. They added a newly discovered twist for old universe believers announced in April, 2013: NASA: Scientists to Io: Volcanoes are in the Wrong Spot

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. Psalm 33:6 


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