A volcano on Jupiter’s moon is to erupt this month

Volcano, eruption
iStock/Thinnapat

Astronomers have observed that the largest and most powerful volcano on Jupiter’s Io is due to erupt in September 2019, as per it’s regular schedule.

The eruption of Loki on Jupiter’s moon, Io, is expected to erupt any day according the the Planetary Science Institute’s Senior Scientist Julie Rathbun.

Rathbun has been researching Loki of over 20 years and noticed that Loki undergoes periodic brightening around the time of the volcano’s eruption. As published in a paper by Rathbun, Loki’s eruption schedule was approximately every 540 days during the 1990s. However, the schedule is believe to have altered slightly, the new schedule is believed to be approximately every 475 days.

“Loki is the largest and most powerful volcano on Io, so bright in the infrared that we can detect it using telescopes on the Earth…If this behaviour remains the same, Loki should erupt in September 2019, around the same time as the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019. We correctly predicted that the last eruption would occur in May of 2018,” commented Rathbun.

“Volcanoes are so difficult to predict because they are so complicated. Many things influence volcanic eruptions, including the rate of magma supply, the composition of the magma – particularly the presence of bubbles in the magma, the type of rock the volcano sits in, the fracture state of the rock, and many other issues,” Rathbun said.

“We think that Loki could be predictable because it is so large. Because of its size, basic physics are likely to dominate when it erupts, so the small complications that affect smaller volcanoes are likely to not affect Loki as much,” Rathbun said. “However, you have to be careful because Loki is named after a trickster god and the volcano has not been known to behave itself. In the early 2000s, once the 540 day pattern was detected, Loki’s behavior changed and did not exhibit periodic behavior again until about 2013.”
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