Spatial distribution of Io's volcanic activity from near-IR adaptive optics observations on 100 nights in 2013–2015

Katherine de Kleer*, Imke de Pater

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


The extreme and time-variable volcanic activity on Jupiter's moon Io is the result of periodic tidal forcing. The spatial distribution of Io's surface heat flux provides an important constraint on models for tidal heat dissipation, yielding information on interior properties and on the depth at which the tidal heat is primarily dissipated. We analyze the spatial distribution of 48 hot spots based on more than 400 total hot spot detections in adaptive optics images taken on 100 nights in 2013–2015 (data presented in de Kleer and de Pater [2016] Time variability of Io's volcanic activity from near-IR adaptive optics 13 observations on 100 nights in 2013–2015). We present full surface maps of Io at multiple near-infrared wavelengths for three epochs during this time period, and show that the longitudinal distribution of hot spots has not changed significantly since the Galileo mission. We find that hot spots that are persistently active at moderate intensities tend to occur at different latitudes/longitudes than those that exhibit sudden brightening events characterized by high peak intensities and subsequent decay phases. While persistent hot spots are located primarily between ± 30°N, hot spots exhibiting bright eruption events occur primarily between 40° and 65° in both the northern and southern hemispheres. In addition, while persistent hot spots occur preferentially on the leading hemisphere, all bright eruptions were detected on the trailing hemisphere, despite the comparable longitudinal coverage of our observations to both hemispheres. A subset of the bright hot spots which are not intense enough to qualify as outburst eruptions resemble outbursts in terms of temporal evolution and spatial distribution, and may be outbursts whose peak emission went unobserved, or else scaled-down versions of the same phenomenon. A statistical analysis finds that large eruptions are more spatially clustered and occur at higher latitudes than 95% of simulated datasets that assume that eruptions occur at random and independent locations. The preferential occurrence of bright, violent eruptions at higher latitudes supports the idea that a deeper magma source supplies these events, as has been previously hypothesized. The monotonic eastward progression of bright eruptions at southern latitudes from 300° to 200°W also suggests a possible eruption triggering mechanism operating across distances of ∼500 km. A comparison to tidal heating models finds a good correspondence between recent models incorporating a partially-fluid interior (Tyler et al. [2015] Astrophys. J., 218–222). and hot spots in the leading hemisphere as well as persistent hot spots. However, hot spots on the trailing hemisphere and bright eruptions do not match these models well, corresponding better to standard deep-mantle heating models (Segatz et al. [1988] Icarus, 75, 187–206) although this match is still imperfect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-414
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Adaptive Optics
  • Infrared Observations
  • Io
  • Spectroscopy
  • Volcanism


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