Observations and temperatures of Io's Pele Patera from Cassini and Galileo spacecraft images

Jani Radebaugh, Alfred S. McEwen, Moses P. Milazzo, Laszlo P. Keszthelyi, Ashley G. Davies, Elizabeth P. Turtle, Douglas D. Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Pele has been the most intense high-temperature hotspot on Io to be continuously active during the Galileo monitoring from 1996-2001. A suite of characteristics suggests that Pele is an active lava lake inside a volcanic depression. In 2000-2001, Pele was observed by two spacecraft, Cassini and Galileo. The Cassini observations revealed that Pele is variable in activity over timescales of minutes, typical of active lava lakes in Hawaii and Ethiopia. These observations also revealed that the short-wavelength thermal emission from Pele decreases with rotation of Io by a factor significantly greater than the cosine of the emission angle, and that the color temperature becomes more variable and hotter at high emission angles. This behavior suggests that a significant portion of the visible thermal emission from Pele comes from lava fountains within a topographically confined lava body. High spatial resolution, nightside images from a Galileo flyby in October 2001 revealed a large, relatively cool (< 800 K) region, ringed by bright hotspots, and a central region of high thermal emission, which is hypothesized to be due to fountaining and convection in the lava lake. Images taken through different filters revealed color temperatures of 1500 ± 80 K from Cassini ISS data and 1605 ± 220 and 1420 ± 100 K from small portions of Galileo SSI data. Such temperatures are near the upper limit for basaltic compositions. Given the limitations of deriving lava eruption temperature in the absence of in situ measurement, it is possible that Pele has lavas with ultramafic compositions. The long-lived, vigorous activity of what is most likely an actively overturning lava lake in Pele Patera indicates that there is a strong connection to a large, stable magma source region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-79
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Interiors
  • Io
  • Satellites of Jupiter
  • Surfaces-satellite
  • Volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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