Mysterious Dunes On Jupiter's Moon Explained By Scientists' New Model
Scientists have known about dune-like structures on Jupiter’s volcanically active moon, Io, for some time, but have been unable to reconcile how a planetary body with such a low-density atmosphere could create the classical wind-blown dunes like those observed on Earth. In collaboration with scientists from Rutgers University, University of Oregon, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, Ryan Ewing, the Robert R. This study attempts to expand scientists’ knowledge of how dunes can form on distant planetary bodies that have vastly different atmospheric conditions than those responsible for dune formation on Earth.
“The challenges in interpreting the ridge structures on Io were understanding how wind could be created and how sand could move where almost no atmosphere exists,” Ewing said. The lava-frost mechanism proposed by this research team relies on researchers’ knowledge that Io is the most volcanically active body in our solar system. “I am certain I will find myself trying to explain observations of dune-like patterns from these worlds as the new data come in,” Ewing said of the upcoming NASA missions to Titan, one of the moon’s of Saturn, and Venus planned over the next several decades.
The research this team has conducted on Io will help explain the formation of these features that are present nearly everywhere in our solar system.
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