Is there life on Io ?: Cave level

Among the more than 60 moons of Jupiter, four stand out for their size, bringing them closer to full-fledged planets - these are Io, Europe, Ganymede and Callisto (shown in order of distance from the planet)

Io - the most volcanic active body in the solar system

In the upper layers of a rarefied atmosphere, even auroras are observed - which means that the satellite also has its own magnetosphere. A green hue indicates the presence of sodium, red indicates oxygen, and blue indicates sulfur-containing volcanic gases.

Lava pipe in volcanic caves in Hawaii. Most likely, such formations should be very common in Io

When it comes to the existence of life on other bodies of the solar system, a couple of centuries ago the Moon, Mars and Venus attracted the most attention. Today, satellites of giant planets are considered much more promising. For example, Titan (read - "Vital Issues") or one of the large Jupiter moons of Io.

Io is much larger than our Moon (its diameter is almost 0.3 terrestrial), it is the largest satellite closest to Jupiter and the most volcanically active body within the solar system: volcanic emissions rise to a height of 300 km. The culprit of this incredible activity is called the giant Jupiter, whose colossal attraction creates a powerful tidal force, causing the satellite's crust to compress and unclench with an amplitude of more than 100 m.This creates friction, which heats Io and stimulates volcanic activity.

However, the local climate cannot be called too hot. Although volcanoes can reach temperatures of 1600 degrees Celsius or higher, melting the rock and creating lava flows, the average surface temperature of Io is about -130 ° C. Sulfur dioxide lies on the satellite with extensive snow fields - just imagine this picture of “ice and flame”, and you you will understand how stormy this satellite lives.

In principle, the presence of life here is considered extremely unlikely; in this sense, another satellite of Jupiter is much more promising - Europe (read: "Does Jupiter give life?"). Io is too close to a huge planet, moreover, dangerously radiating. No traces of organic matter are yet to be found on it, and its atmosphere is too thin to prevent the instant evaporation of water.

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But Io can find safe and comfortable shelters where life, at least in very primitive forms, could well have been preserved. If, of course, it is assumed that once in the past it was brought here from outside, or if the satellite itself was a quieter place and allowed life to appear. However, some theoretical modeling data suggest that Io formed in another area, at a sufficient distance from Jupiter, where water could well exist - in the form of ice. And if we recall the impressive amounts of water in neighboring Europe and Ganymede, then the presence of water on Io does not seem like a fantastic scenario.

The absence of the atmosphere and the infrared radiation of Jupiter (this hot planet radiates about 1.5 times more than it receives from the Sun), according to calculations, they should have quickly evaporated this water in some 10 million years. But if by this moment life on Io had arisen, it could have taken refuge under the ground - such a conjecture was expressed by the American astronomer Dirk Schulze-Makuch.

Indeed, in places covered by the rock thickness, water could remain, and geothermal activity and sufficient amounts of sulfur-containing compounds can provide the necessary heat and energy source for life (for example, sulfur bacteria and on Earth receive energy from it).

So even if no organic matter is found on the surface of Io, this does not mean that it is not below the surface. Moreover, there may be plenty of space there: the powerful volcanic activity of the satellite probably turns the upper layers of its crust into a kind of holey cheese. Hot lava flows in streams, "gnawing" holes in the rock and gradually cooling, leaving behind what is called lava pipes on Earth. In them, both moisture and sulfur can be preserved - and, possibly, life.

According to the publication of Astrobiology Magazine

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