Galileo Color Image of Eruption on Io
This image, taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft, shows a new blue-colored volcanic plume extending about 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) into space from Jupiter's moon Io (see inset at lower left). The blue color of the plume is consistent with the presence of sulfur dioxide gas and "snow" condensing from the gas as the plume expands and cools. Galileo images have also shown that the Ra Patera plume glows in the dark, perhaps due to the fluorescence of sulfur and oxygen ions created by the breaking apart of sulfur dioxide molecules by energetic particles in the Jovian magnetosphere. The images at right show a comparison of changes seen near the volcano Ra Patera since the Voyager spacecraft flybys of 1979 (windows at right show Voyager image at top and Galileo image at bottom). This eruptive plume is an example of a new type of volcanic activity discovered during Voyager's flyby in 1979, believed to be geyser-like eruptions driven by sulfur dioxide or sulfur gas erupting and freezing in Io's extremely tenuous atmosphere. Volcanic eruptions on Earth cannot throw materials to such high altitudes.
Ra Patera is the site of dramatic surface changes. An area around the volcano of about 40,000 square kilometers, area about the size of New Jersey, has been covered by new volcanic deposits. The image was taken in late June 28, 1996 from a distance of 972,000 kilometers (604,000 miles).