A field of bright lava flows next to a shield volcano could be a source of recent sulfur volcanism on Io, as detected by instruments aboard NASA's Galileo spacecraft.
The mosaic at left combines higher-resolution images (330 meters or about 1080 feet per picture element) taken in October 2001 with lower-resolution color images (1.4 kilometers or 0.9 mile per picture element) taken in July 1999 by Galileo's solid-state imaging camera.
By comparing these images with a map of hot spots taken in February by Galileo's near-infrared mapping spectrometer (lower right), Galileo scientists noted that a new hot spot west of the active volcano Prometheus became bright in February 2000 and dimmed later. This hot spot appears to correspond with the bright flow field just west of a recently discovered shield volcano (see PIA03532), which is the only fresh volcanic material in the area.
The relatively low intensity of the February 2000 hot spot in the infrared data suggests a low-temperature eruption, consistent with sulfur lava rather than silicate lava as found elsewhere on Io and also on Earth. Sulfur lavas are thought to cool to a gray-yellow color on Io, as seen in the new flow field visible in the camera image. This bright flow field could be the best example of active sulfur lava flows deposited on Io during the Galileo mission. At upper right is a global view of Io showing the location of the more-detailed images.
The low temperature of this hot spot differs from many of Io's other active volcanoes, such as Pele, Tvashtar and Prometheus. Intense tidal flexing of Io helps keep the moon's interior molten, at some places producing silicate lavas hotter than any seen on Earth in billions of years. Io has the greatest known diversity of volcanic activity in the solar system.
North is to the top of all these images.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Galileo mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Additional information about Galileo and its discoveries is available on the Galileo mission home page at http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/galileo/. Background information and educational context for the images can be found at http://galileo.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/io.cfm.