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Scientists have documented a huge eruption on an island

Avi Blizovsky

The eruption in a series of images taken in February 2001 of the island from the telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. reaches its peak in the lower image on the right

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A team of astronomers regularly monitoring the fair moon Io witnessed the largest recorded volcanic eruption in history.
The massive eruption, described in the November issue of the journal Icarus, which deals with the solar system, occurred in an area of ​​Io known as "Sort" in February 2001. It covered an area of ​​about 3,000 square kilometers - that is, more than a city like London or Los Angeles. Volcanic activity can be measured using factors such as heat eruption, the area covered, the size of the plume and the amount of trend.
"In our case, we measured the heat emitted and the area covered by the eruption, and according to these measures, this is the largest volcanic eruption that human eyes have seen in the entire solar system," said one of the research partners, Dr. Frank Marchis from the University of California at Berkeley, who watched the event together with Imeka de Pater , Professor of Astronomy, Earth and Planetary Sciences at Berkeley.
The temperature of the lava that erupted in the Surt event was about 1,500 degrees Kelvin, which corresponds to the temperature trend in volcanic eruptions on Earth. DePatter explained that Io is the only other body in the solar system, besides Earth, known to have volcanic activity. He and Marchis were lucky because they were watching Iwo from the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii just as the eruption occurred. A technique called adjustable optics that removes unnecessary light and helps focus objects made it possible to analyze the eruption and measure it.
"Eruptions on the island occur two or three times a year and last for a few hours or a few days," said de Pater. "We caught the outbreak right at its beginning.
Ashley Davis, who helped model the eruption after it happened, says that Io's volcanism is fueled by Jupiter and Europa, which cause a 'gravitational struggle' that heats up Io," he said.
Rosalie Lopez, a scientist from JPL, added that Io is the only place outside the Earth that can be used as a natural laboratory for the study of volcanism. In fact, Lopes says, activity like the one recorded in 2001 happened many times on the young Earth, billions of years ago. In the future such research dealing with Jupiter's moon can lead to the development of satellites that will try to detect the first signs of eruptions on Earth and save hundreds of human lives.
Scientists are also studying Io and Europa to see if they could be home to extraterrestrial life. De Pater says that the moon Europa is the leading candidate because there is a high probability, a liquid ocean under the ice layer. However, astronomers did not rule out its hot neighbor, Io. "It is possible to assess whether a certain type of life may exist in volcanic springs," says de Pater. "In the last decade, we have discovered on Earth so many life forms that exist in extreme environments."

For information on the Discovery Channel website

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