Science & Technology

Jupiter’s Innermost Moon – Io – Has Spectacular Dunes

Jupiter's Moon Io Galileo Spacecraft

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft picture of Jupiter’s moon Io, the planet’s third-largest moon. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Rutgers research exhibits new means dunes can kind on assorted celestial surfaces.

Scientists have lengthy contemplated how Jupiter’s innermost moon, Io, has meandering ridges as magnificent as any that may be seen in films like “Dune.” Now, a Rutgers analysis research has introduced a contemporary rationalization for a way dunes can kind even on a floor as icy and roiling as Io’s.

The research, printed within the journal Nature Communications on April 19, 2022, relies on a research of the bodily processes controlling grain movement coupled with an evaluation of photos from the 14-year mission of NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, which allowed the creation of the primary detailed maps of Jupiter’s moons. The new analysis is anticipated to increase our scientific understanding of the geological options on these planet-like worlds.

“Our studies point to the possibility of Io as a new ‘dune world,’” stated first creator George McDonald, a postdoctoral researcher in Rutgers’ Earth and Planetary Sciences Department. “We have proposed, and quantitatively tested, a mechanism by which sand grains can move, and in turn dunes could be forming there.”

Potential Dunes on Jupiter’s Moon Io

Potential dunes on Jupiter’s moon Io. An evaluation signifies that the darkish materials (decrease left) is lately emplaced lava flows, whereas the repeated, line-like options dominating the picture are potential dunes. The brilliant, white areas could also be newly emplaced grains because the lava flows vaporize adjoining frost. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Rutgers

Current scientific understanding dictates that dunes, by their nature, are hills or ridges of sand piled up by the wind. And scientists in earlier research of Io, whereas describing its floor as containing some dune-like options, concluded the ridges couldn’t be dunes because the forces from winds on Io are weak because of the moon’s low-density ambiance.

“This work tells us that the environments in which dunes are found are considerably more varied than the classical, endless desert landscapes on parts of Earth or on the fictional planet Arrakis in ‘Dune,’” McDonald stated.

The Galileo mission, which lasted from 1989 – 2003, logged so many scientific firsts that researchers to today are nonetheless learning the info it collected. One of the foremost insights gleaned from the info was the excessive extent of volcanic exercise on Io – a lot in order that its volcanoes repeatedly and quickly resurface the little world.

Io’s floor is a mixture of black solidified lava flows and sand, flowing “effusive” lava streams, and “snows” of sulfur dioxide. The scientists used mathematical equations to simulate the forces on a single grain of basalt or frost and calculate its path. When lava flows into sulfur dioxide beneath the moon’s floor, its venting is “dense and fast moving enough to move grains on Io and possibly enable the formation of large-scale features like dunes,” McDonald stated.

Once the researchers devised a mechanism by which the dunes may kind, they regarded to images of Io’s floor taken by the Galileo spacecraft for extra proof. The spacing of the crests and the height-to-width ratios they noticed had been in keeping with tendencies for dunes seen on Earth and different planets.

“Work like this really allows us to understand how the cosmos works,” stated Lujendra Ojha, a co-author and an assistant professor within the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “In the end, in planetary science, that is what we are trying to do.”

Reference: “Aeolian sediment transport on Io from lava–frost interactions” by George D. McDonald, Joshua Méndez Harper, Lujendra Ojha, Paul Corlies, Josef Dufek, Ryan C. Ewing and Laura Kerber, 19 April 2022, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-29682-x

The paper additionally included authors from the University of Oregon, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the California Institute of Technology.

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