THRILLING DISCOVERIES ABOUT THE TIDALLY TORTURED VOLCANIC WONDERLAND IO
My personal connection to Io began in 1981 with “discovery” of the eruption at Aten Patera between the Voyager 1 and 2 encounters. Really, this was a Voyager mission discovery, and I was the lucky student who first recognized it. This result lead to publication of “Two Classes of Volcanic Plumes on Io” (McEwen and Soderblom 1983). Earth-based telescopic and Galileo mission results showed that Io’s active volcanism is dominated by silicate rather than exotic sulfur volcanism favored by Voyager scientists. This meant that Io is highly relevant to the early evolution of the terrestrial planets (and some present-day exoplanets). During the Galileo mission we may have discovered extremely high-temperature ultramafic volcanism (McEwen et al. 1998), an even stronger link to early volcanism on Earth and other terrestrial planets. Widespread ultramafic volcanism suggests a large degree of mantle melting, perhaps consistent with a magma ocean. However, the Galileo cameras were not designed to measure such high temperatures and failed to acquire convincing spectral compositional data on the silicate lavas, and the mission did not acquire the best geophysical data on Io's interior, so uncertainty persists. A future Discovery mission called Io Volcano Observer may finally resolve these mysteries about Io, which in turn can advance understanding of the evolution of other planets and Moons (like Europa and Enceladus) with silicate mantles.