Largest volcano on Jupiter's moon Io is about to blow - Visible from Earth

Jupiter news: Volcano erupting and the Gas Giant

Jupiter’s Loki Patera is the biggest and flashiest of the lunar volcanoes orbiting the Gas Giant. Found on the Galilean moon Io, the volcano erupts like clockwork, regularly flaring up over Jupiter. Based on 20 years of observations, astronomers have been able to narrow down the intervals in-between eruptions. Researchers at the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona have now announced Loki is due another powerful eruption in the coming days.

According to Julie Rathbun, a senior scientist at the institute, the 125-mile-wide (202km) volcano is scheduled to erupt mid-September.

Dr. Rathbun said: “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.

The scientist and her colleagues correctly predicted Loki would erupt in May 2018.

The researchers traced Loki’s eruptions back to the 1990s when the volcano erupted once every 540 days.

 Jupiter news: Active volcano on Jupiter moon Io

Jupiter shock: An active volcano lake on Io is seen here – the large black object (Image: NASA)

But the gap in-between individual blasts is growing smaller and scientists are not entirely sure what is accelerating the rate of eruptions.

Today, the volcano appears to erupt every 475 days or so.

Dr. Rathbun said: “If this behavior remains the same, Loki should erupt in September 2019, around the same time as the EPSC-DPS meeting in Geneva.

We correctly predicted that the last eruption would occur in May of 2018.

Dr. Rathbun first described Loki’s eruptive behavior in 2002 in a research paper dubbed L. Loki, Io: A periodic volcano.

 Jupiter shock: Jupiter and moon Io

Jupiter shock: Io is the innermost of the four Galilean moons (Image: NASA)

The study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The scientist has now discussed the Jovian volcano at the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society’s 51st annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 17.

She said: “Volcanoes are so difficult to predict because they are so complicated.

 Jupiter shock: Galilean moons around Jupiter

Jupiter shock: The four Galilean moons orbiting the gas giant Jupiter (Image: NASA)

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.

We think Loki could be predictable because it is so large.

NASA’s first-ever images of Io snapped by the Voyager 1 probe, reveal a sea of volcanic calderas and lava flows surrounding Loki.

The volcano is also home to an active lava lake that has been emitting heat since at least Voyager’s flyby in March 1979.

Although the exact composition of the volcanically active region is unknown, NASA said it is likely made up of Sulphur, Sulphur dioxide and silicates such as basalt.

The lava lake is seen in NASA’s page above as the large D-shaped black feature.

Dr. Rathbun said: “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.