Magmatic differentiation of Io

Laszlo Keszthelyi, Alfred McEwen

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46 Scopus citations


If Io has been volcanically active through much of its history, it must be highly differentiated. We present an initial attempt to quantify the differentiation of the silicate portion of Io. We suggest that, on average, each part of Io has undergone about 400 episodes of partial melting. We employ a widely used thermodynamic model of silicate melts to examine the effect of such repeated differentiation. Despite many caveats, including a grossly oversimplistic model of the differentiation process, uncertainties in the initial composition of the mantle, and the failure to model more than four episodes of partial melting, we are able to make some robust conclusions. Io should have a roughly 50 km thick, low density (2600-2900 kg m-3), alkali-rich, siliceous crust composed primarily of feldspars and nepheline. The crustal magmas should have relatively low melting temperatures (<1100 °C). The bulk of the mantle should be essentially pure forsterite (magnesian olivine). It is possible that the denser iron- and calcium-rich materials are segregated into a lower mantle and thus no longer involved in surface processes. These model predictions are generally consistent with the observations of Io. The enrichment of the crust in alkalis may help to explain the composition of the neutral clouds around Io. The failure to detect silicates at the surface of Io to date might be due in part to the difficulty in detecting Fe-poor minerals such as nepheline, feldspars, and forsterite via near-IR spectroscopy. Many hot spot temperatures are too high for sulfur alone but are in line with silica-rich melts. The mountains on Io could be manifestations of large buoyant plutons. The highest temperature lavas may be the result of melts from the depleted mantle making their way to the surface from great depths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-448
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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