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Dunes on Jupiter’s volcano moon Io?

Dunes on Io?
Click for full image.

The uncertainty of science: According to a just published paper, scientists now propose that the dune-like ridges long known to exist on Io, Jupiter’s volcano-covered moon, might actually be dunes, even though Io has no real atmosphere.

The photo to the right, cropped, reduced, and annotated to post here, was taken by the Galileo while it orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003. It illustrates what the scientists believe is the proposed process:

McDonald and his colleagues used mathematical equations to simulate the force required to move grains on Io and calculated the path those grains would take. The study simulated the movement of a single grain of basalt or frost, revealing that the interaction between flowing lava and sulfur dioxide beneath the moon’s surface creates venting that is dense and fast moving enough to form large dune-like features on the moon’s surface, according to the statement.

In what might be a monumental understatement about the reality of interplanetary geology, McDonald said this in the press release: “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.”

Damn right. The possibility of unexpected geology of all kinds on the millions of planets, moon, and asteroids not yet studied is endless, and guaranteed.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


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  • Max

    Interesting, if I understand this correctly, pyroclastic flow from a volcano of ash, cinders, heavy gases will create dunes as it spreads from its source just as a wind would create dunes on earth.
    I wonder if a meteor impact would cause a ripple, like on water, that spreads across the surface… It would be a dangerous place to land a ship.

    Of course this is in addition to the heavy ion bombardment from the magnetic flux of Jupiters other south pole (the Great Red Spot) which catches Io every 10 hours? Magnetic induction is probably the source of its heating… Possibly the cheapest most plentiful source of energy and heat in the outer system, a great place to refine Fuel from Europa, and other more accessible moons.
    With proper shielding, landing on the cold side of Io, tunneling to its molten core, could establish an industrial complex from which an independent empire or astroid / Jovian civilization could spring up with its own shipbuilding facilities and independent fuel stations. Overactive imagination tonight.

  • Star Bird

    Dune great Big Worms and wait until you see the size of their Robins

  • Glenn McLaughlin

    Overactive Max, since you’re seeking Jovian life, there is Europa Clipper (orbiter) to launch in 2024. There is no other mission to the Jovian system other than a gravity assist-flyby by the large Uranus Orbiter and Probe to launch after 2031. It looks like it may be a generation before we get a closer look at Io.

    Io’s umbrella-like eruptions in profile appear simply Strombolian into space-vacuum. But close-up we see enough gas and fragmentation to produce base surge deposits of climbing dune-forms.

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