Io: Eruptions at Pillan, and the time evolution of Pele and Pillan from 1996 to 2015

Imke de Pater*, Conor Laver, Ashley Gerard Davies, Katherine de Kleer, David A. Williams, Robert R. Howell, Julie A. Rathbun, John R. Spencer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Observations obtained with the near-infrared camera NIRC2, coupled to the adaptive optics system on the 10-m W.M. Keck II telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, on 14 August 2007 revealed an active and highly-energetic eruption at Pillan at 245.2±0.7°W and 8.5±0.5°S. A one-temperature blackbody fit to the data revealed a (blackbody) temperature of 840±40K over an area of 17km2, with a total power output of ~500GW. Using Davies' (Davies, A.G. [1996]. Icarus 124(1), 45-61) Io Flow Model, we find that the oldest lava present is less than 1-2h old, having cooled down from the eruption temperature of >1400K to ~710K; this young hot lava suggests that an episode of lava fountaining was underway. In addition to an examination of this eruption, we present data of the Pele and Pillan volcanoes obtained with the same instrument and telescope from 2002 through 2015. These data reveal another eruption at Pillan on UT 28 June 2010. Model fits to this eruption yield a blackbody temperature of 600-700K over an area of ~60km2, radiating over 600GW. On UT 18 February 2015 an energetic eruption was captured by the InfraRed Telescope Facility (IRTF) via mutual event occultations. The eruption took place at 242.7±1°W and 12.4±1°S, i.e., in the eastern part of Pillan Patera. Subsequent observations showed a gradual decrease in the intensity of the eruption. Images obtained with the Keck telescope on 31 March and 5 May 2015 revealed that the locations of the eruption had shifted by 120-160km to the NW.In contrast to the episodicity of Pillan, Pele has been persistent, observed in every appropriate 4.7μm observation. Pele was remarkably consistent in its thermal emission from the Galileo era through February 2002, when a blackbody temperature of 940±40K and an area of 6.5km2 was measured. Since that time, however, the radiant flux from what is likely a apparently large, overturning lava lake has gradually subsided over the next decade by a factor of ~4, while the location of the thermal source was moving back and forth between areas roughly ~100km to the W of the 2002 location and an area roughly ~100km to the SE of the 2002 location.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-212
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2016


  • Infrared observations
  • Io
  • Volcanism


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