Io, innermost of Jupiter's large moons, is one of the most unusual objects in the Solar System. Tidal heating of the interior produces a global heat flux 40 times the terrestrial value, producing intense volcanic activity and a global resurfacing rate averaging perhaps 1 cm yr−1. The volcanoes may erupt mostly silicate lavas, but the uppermost surface is dominated by sulfur compounds including SO frost. The volcanoes and frost support a thin, patchy SO atmosphere with peak pressure near 10−8 bars. Self-sustaining bombardment of the surface and atmosphere by Io-derived plasma trapped in Jupiter's magnetosphere causes escape of material from Io (predominantly sulfur, oxygen, and sodium atoms, ions, and molecules) at a rate of about 103 kg s−1. The resulting Jupiter-encircling torus of ionized sulfur and oxygen dominates the Jovian magnetosphere and, together with an extended cloud of neutral sodium, is readily observable from Earth.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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