Are There Any Active Volcanoes on Other Planets?
Volcanic eruptions happen on earth and other parts of the solar system. Volcanic eruptions are triggered by pressure from dissolved gas and heat. Volcanoes are everywhere, including the moon and other asteroids. Each volcano has its distinct features.
As of today, scientists have explored and discovered the existence of volcanoes on Mercury, Venus, Earth, the Moon, Mars, Triton's Neptune moon, and Io and Europa, Jupiter's moon. Earth and Io are the only ones with active volcanoes. On Mars, Venus, Pluto, and Europa, evidence of potential volcanic activity have been found, although no direct eruption observations have been obtained.
What are the Different Types of Volcanoes?
There are four main types of volcanoes: cinder cone, composite, shield, and lava dome.
- Cinder cone volcanoes are the most common type of volcano. These are small to medium in size and have steep sides. They’re formed when molten rock, ash, and gas erupt from a single point and build up around it.
- Composite volcanoes are the second most common type of volcano, and also are larger than cinder cone volcanoes and have a gentler slope. They’re formed when multiple vents erupt, and the lava and debris build up around them.
- Shield volcanoes are the largest type of volcano. They are very wide and have very gentle slopes. They are formed when lava flows from multiple vents and covers a large area.
- Lava dome volcanoes are the least common type of volcano. They are small and have steep sides. They are formed when the molten rock gets trapped and forms a dome.
Volcanoes can also be classified as active, dormant, or inactive based on their current active state.
- Active volcanoes are erupting or have the potential to erupt.
- Dormant volcanoes are not currently active but could become active in the future.
- Inactive volcanoes have not erupted in recent history and are not likely to do so in the near future.
Most of the volcanic evidence detected in the solar system dates back millions of years to a time when it was still developing, and the planets and moons had considerably greater interior temperatures. The volcanic activity that is recent in geological time is not common.
Volcanicity on Planets
In the inner solar system, volcanic eruptions are majorly seen on Earth. The surfaces of all the rocky planets have been altered by volcanic activity. Mercury's surface is covered in volcanic structures, indicating that there may have been volcanic eruptions at some point in the planet's early past. Mercury's core is probably cemented by now, ending any volcanic activity.
Most of the volcanic formations on Venus' whole surface are believed to be less than 500 million years old, according to analysis. Venus is assumed to be a geologically active planet with ongoing volcanic eruptions, despite scientists not confirming the existence of current volcanic activity.
It is believed there might have been volcanic activity on Venus because Venus has global volcanism, where the entire surface explodes once every few hundred million years.
On the other side, Mars has one of the greatest volcanoes in the solar system. Studies on whether any of them are still active have yet to be discovered. The core of Mars is speculated to have hardened billions of years ago, making it hard for volcanic activity to happen. Although there is evidence of minimal volcanic activity at the surface, it is still unclear if the eruption of the volcanoes is possible.
Volcanicity on Moons
The finding of moons with active volcanoes in one of our solar systems is one of the most interesting things the geological field has researched and found evidence on. It is evident that the solar system has more moons with active volcanoes compared to planets. It is expected to be the opposite since moons often lose their interior heat quickly after forming. A moon must get a steady stream of energy from an outside source to be volcanically active.
Jupiter Io moon
The most active volcano in the solar system is Io, a moon of Jupiter. Every time Io erupts, lava and gas are released. Jupiter's tidal forces, which stretch and compress Io as it circles the big planet, are responsible for this activity. The heat produced by the resulting friction melts the interior of Io and fuels volcanic activity.
Io is a tiny moon that is enormously influenced by the gravity of the giant planet Jupiter. Intense internal tides constantly deform Io due to the gravitational attraction of Jupiter and the nearby moons. There are over 100 volcanic vents visible on the Io moon.
Triton- moon of Neptune
Cryovolcanoes were first discovered on Triton in the solar system. During a mission, the Voyager 2 spacecraft captured images of nitrogen gas and dust clouds in 1989. These gases condense and fall back to the surface. The process generates a thick covering resembling snow, which gives Triton its smooth surface.
Some other findings confirm a layer underneath Triton that is warm and dark that has penetrated the moon's surface ice. The trapped heat goes ahead to vaporize the nitrogen in the subsurface. Nitrogen expands and breaks through the ice surface. It's thought to be the only time that a volcanic eruption has been caused by energy coming from the outside body.
Impact of Volcanicity
Planets with volcanic activities are considered better for supporting life than those without. Volcanicity help in maintaining moderate temperatures, regulating the mantle and atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide. Volcanic gases react with and destroy oxygen. The detection of oxygen and volcanic gases is an indication the planet can support life.Note: Geographers continue doing intensive research on volcanic activities in different plants. Some planets may show signs of past, recent, and future volcanicity.