Thermal signature, eruption style, and eruption evolution at Pele and Pillan on Io

Ashley Gerard Davies, Laszlo P. Keszthelyi, David A. Williams, Cynthia B. Phillips, Alfred S. McEwen, Rosaly M.C. Lopes, William D. Smythe, Lucas W. Kamp, Laurence A. Soderblom, Robert W. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


The Galileo spacecraft has been periodically monitoring volcanic activity on Io since June 1996, making it possible to chart the evolution of individual eruptions. We present results of coanalysis of Near-Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (NIMS) and solid-state imaging (SSI) data of eruptions at Pele and Pillan, especially from a particularly illuminating data set consisting of mutually constraining, near-simultaneous NIMS and SSI observations obtained during orbit C9 in June 1997. The observed thermal signature from each hot spot, and the way in which the thermal signature changes with time, tightly constrains the possible styles of eruption. Pele and Pillan have very different eruption styles. From September 1996 through May 1999, Pele demonstrates an almost constant total thermal output, with thermal emission spectra indicative of a long-lived, active lava lake. The NIMS Pillan data exhibit the thermal signature of a "Pillanian" eruption style, a large, vigorous eruption with associated open channel, or sheet flows, producing an extensive flow field by orbit C10 in September 1997. The high mass eruption rate, high liquidus temperature (at least 1870 K) eruption at Pillan is the best candidate so far for an active ultramafic (magnesium-rich, "komatiitic") flow on Io, a style of eruption never before witnessed. The thermal output per unit area from Pillan is, however, consistent with the emplacement of large, open-channel flows. Magma temperature at Pele is ≥1600 K. If the magma temperature is 1600 K, it suggests a komatiitic-basalt composition. The power output from Pele is indicative of a magma volumetric eruption rate of ∼250 to 340 m3 s-1. Although the Pele lava lake is considerably larger than its terrestrial counterparts, the power and mass fluxes per unit area are similar to active terrestrial lava lakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2000JE001357
Pages (from-to)33079-33103
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue numberE12
StatePublished - Dec 25 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Oceanography


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