Here on Earth, there are many examples of powerful volcanoes of all shapes and sizes, but this geological formation is not exclusive to this “pale blue dot”. Other worlds in the Solar System also have volcanoes — and in this article you get to know some of the most incredible volcanoes on Earth and other planets and moons.
- Will volcano eruption cause tsunami in Brazil? No, but it’s worth the warning. Understand!
- New evidence indicates the existence of active volcanoes on Venus
- Mars volcanoes may be active and melting ice below the surface
Most of the volcanic features found on other worlds were formed in the very distant past, when our planetary system was still young. So there are many already dormant volcanoes out there, but some of them are going full steam ahead.
Mauna Loa and Terra
Mauna Loa is located in Hawaii and is the largest volcano in the region, reaching about 4,169 meters in altitude and approximately 90 km in length. In addition to being considered one of the most active in the world, it is the largest shield volcano on Earth, meaning that it was formed almost entirely by lava flows throughout its history.
Since the first well-documented eruption in 1843, the Mauna Loa has been active 33 times, and scientists believe it has been active for at least 700,000 years — it appears that it would have emerged from the seabed 400,000 years ago. .
The most recent eruption occurred between March and April 1984, but those of 1926 and 1959 caused the most death and destruction in several nearby villages. Currently, the city of Hilo has part of its area built on lava flows from the 19th century. Mauna Loa will erupt again and, because of its ability to produce large flows, it is constantly monitored.
Tvashtar Catena na lua Io
Io is one of Jupiter’s four largest moons, discovered by Galilieu Galilei in January 1610. Although it is slightly smaller than our Moon, Io is the celestial body with the highest volcanic activity in the entire Solar System. So far from the Sun, the small natural satellite keeps its interior warm thanks to the enormous gravity of the gas giant, in addition to the tidal forces of other nearby moons.
There are hundreds of visible volcanic vents on Io, including Tvashtar Catena, a large chain of volcanic basins. The plume ejected by these volcanoes reaches about 385 km in altitude — much of it falls back to the moon. The gases are released at speeds from 1,500 to 3,200 km/h.
Mount Olympus on Mars
Mars is responsible for harboring the tallest volcano in the entire Solar System — Mount Olympus. Its height is estimated at 21.9 km above the average level of the Martian surface — three times taller than the tallest mount on Earth, Everest — with a base (or cauldron) measuring 85 km by 60 km.
Mount Olympus was discovered in 1971 by NASA’s Mariner 9 spacecraft. According to some research, the volcano last erupted at least 2 million years ago, but not before remaining active for two billion years in a row, contributing to the formation of the Martian surface.
Maat Mons on Venus
Matt Moons is the tallest volcano on Venus, discovered in 1991 by NASA’s Megallan spacecraft. It rises about 8 km above the average level of the Venusian surface and has a caldera on its summit, 28 x 31 km long. Although it is considered active, no eruptions have yet been observed since its discovery.
The most recent research suggests that the distribution of lava flows, as well as the craters and ridge morphology, have probably been modified due to recent volcanic activity at Maat Mons. Upcoming missions sent to Venus will provide more data on the planet’s dynamics.
Tharsis Mounts on Mars
The Tharsis Montes, located on Mars, is composed of three dormant volcanoes, called Arsia, Pavonis and Ascraeus, being the largest volcanic region on the planet, with about 4,000 km. This range has almost the same elevation as Mount Olympus.
The Arsia caldera is the largest found in the entire Red Planet, with an estimated diameter of 120 km. The region also draws attention because of the size of the volcanoes found there compared to those on Earth — the volcanoes of the Martian Tharsis region are up to 100 times larger.
Ahuna Mons on the dwarf planet Ceres
The Ahuna Mons volcano is located on the dwarf planet Ceres, located in the asteroid belt and which was studied by NASA’s Dawn mission, whose probe visited it between 2015 and 2018. It rises 4 km from the surface and its characteristics suggest that it recently graduated.
Ahuna Mons would have formed from a bubble of mud, salt water and rock that rose from the interior of the small planet. The bubble would then have burst at some fragile point on Ceres’ surface. The expelled material cools down and composes the structure.
Loki Patera na lua Io
Back in the Solar System’s most volcanically active celestial body, Io, Loki Patera is an ancient lava lake on the surface of Jupiter’s small moon. It was first noticed in 1979 by Voyager 1.
Loki Patera is approximately 200 km wide and erupts every 540 Earth days. The most recent was in May 2018 — which means a new one is approaching. The heat emitted by this region is such that it can be observed from Earth’s telescopes.
Icy volcanoes of the moon Triton
Triton is a frozen moon of the planet Neptune and has cryovolcanoes — volcanoes that, instead of lava, expel volatile substances such as water, ammonia or methane. The first evidence of such an activity was observed by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989.
In fact, Voyager 2 observed a handful of geyser-like eruptions spewing out nitrogen gas and dust from the underground of Triton, at an altitude of 8 km. The best observed activities are known as Hili and Mahilani. Each eruption can last up to a year, releasing 100 million cubic meters of nitrogen ice.
Criovulcão na luna Enceladus
Like Triton, Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth largest natural satellite, has cryovolcanoes at its south pole. Its jets of water vapor, ice and organic molecules were first observed in 2005 and reinforced with the Cassini mission, making Enceladus one of the most prominent objects when it comes to the search for life forms on other worlds.
Some of this material expelled by Enceladus’s cryovolcanoes returns in the form of snow on the moon. The other part is responsible for forming Saturn’s E ring with ice particles. The small natural satellite has a global ocean and its core appears to be active, thanks to the gravitational interaction with Saturn, which feeds the geysers.
Doom Mons on Titan Moon
Located on Saturn’s moon Titan, Doom Mons is a mountain range with which scientists believe cryovolcanoes exist. It was discovered in 2005, being 1,450 meters high and almost 72 km wide.
Doom Mons is considered a putative cryovolcano — the geological features observed in the region indicate the possible existence of cryovolcanic activity, but so far no evidence has been found.