In our last article on Io facts – the Jovian moon, we focused on a few important things like its discovery, its mass, distance of the moon from its host planet, gravity, characteristics like surface, interior composition, mountains etc. What we did not cover was its atmosphere. It is quite interesting. That’s the reason why we decided to create a separate article on Io moon facts, focusing primarily on its atmosphere. We will throw in a few extra information if we can. So, let’s begin…
Io Moon Facts: 1-5 | Atmosphere
1. Since our own Moon has no atmosphere, it is logical to think that this Jovian moon will not have an atmosphere of its own. Quite the contrary, Io has its very own atmosphere. And yes, it is unlike what we have on our Earth.
2. Atmosphere of Io is thin, really thin. The gases that make up Io’s atmosphere include sulfur dioxide as the primary component. Mind it. SO2 is the primary component. This means there are other components as well.
3. The other components that make up Io’s atmosphere include SO or sulfur monoxide, NaCl or Sodium Chloride (yes our table salt) and there’s atomic oxygen as well as atomic sulfur present in the atmosphere.
4. Well, no need to get too excited here. Though there’s oxygen in Io’s atmosphere, it is too scanty to support aerobic life. And scientists don’t yet know if there is anaerobic life present on Io or not.
5. One really interesting thing about Io’s atmosphere is its temperature and density variation depending upon several factors like volcanic activity, latitude, time of the day, abundance of surface frost etc.
Io Moon Facts: 6-10 | Atmosphere
6. Wondering what’s the maximum atmospheric pressure out there on Io? Scientists say that it ranges anywhere between 3.3 x 10-5 pascals and 3 x 10-4 pascals.
7. This maximum atmospheric pressure on Io is present on the anti-Jupiter hemisphere of the Jovian moon and also at its equator. This maximum atmospheric pressure is also seen when the temperature of surface frost is at peak and even during early afternoons.
8. That’s maximum. What about the minimum? The minimum atmospheric pressure comes at night. That’s when the atmospheric pressure dips all the way down to between 0.1 x 10-7 pascals and 1 x 10-7 pascals.
9. Here is something really interesting. The magnetosphere of the host planet, that is, Jupiter, actually strips Io’s atmosphere of the gas.
10. The gas that escapes the atmosphere of Io can land in two possible places:
- It can land in the neutral cloud that is known for surrounding Io.
- It can land in the plasma torus of Io.
Wondering what plasma torus is? Plasma torus is a ring created by ionized particles. This ring is known for sharing not only the orbit of Io but also known for co-rotating with Jupiter’s magnetosphere.
Now the question is, what really is a torus? It is a concept in geometry. It is a surface of revolution that is generated by revolving a circle in a 3D space ensuring that the plane of the circle and the axis of the circle are on the same plane (called coplanar). See the image below: