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The Volcanic Surface of Jupiter's Moon Io

March 23, 2012; 6:00 AM ET

More than 400 years after its discovery by Galileo, Io, the innermost large moon of Jupiter, now has a global geologic map made by a group of scientists including David A. Crown of the Planetary Science Institute. The map, which was published by the U.S. Geological Survey, illustrates the geologic character of some of the most unique and active volcanoes ever documented in the solar system.

Io is a celestial body whose gravitational relationships with Jupiter and sister moons Europa and Ganymede cause massive, rapid changes of its surface and interior. This pulsating generates tremendous heat in Io's interior, which is relieved through massive surface volcanism, resulting in 25 times more volcanic activity than occurs here on Earth.

This highly detailed, colorful map reveals a number of volcanic features, including volcanic domes and depressions, lava flow fields, mountains, plume deposits and sulfur-rich plains. Despite this geologic diversity, there is one particular feature that is common to the Moon, Mars and even Earth that is missing on the geologic map of Io, impact craters. It has none simply because it is so geologically active so its surface is constantly "refreshed" by new sheets of lava. Any craters on this moon are short-lived.

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Astronomy Blog
The AccuWeather.com astronomy blog, by Dave Samuhel, discusses stargazing, including how weather will affect viewing conditions of astronomical phenomenon.