Volcanic eruptions are relatively common on Earth, with magma ejecting tens of miles from its crater. But what would a volcanic eruption look like on an asteroid or meteor?
In this regard, scientists have examined “mineral volcanoes” on an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter.
Volcanic eruptions occur roughly every four days around the world, with up to 80 eruptions typically recorded in any given year. Scientists revealed that volcanic eruptions on Earth will look completely different from those on other planets or asteroids, because not all planets are made entirely of rocks.
Volcanoes are known as vents in the Earth’s crust where hot ash, magma and gases can escape from the planet’s core.
And when tectonic plates move toward each other, it can lead to very dangerous volcanic eruptions.
One of the most famous volcanic eruptions in the world occurred in 1815, when Tambora volcano released more than 50 cubic kilometers of magma. The volcano collapsed in on itself to form a four-mile-wide caldera – a large hollow basin that formed when the magma chamber was emptied.
But while we are all familiar with the dramatic images of volcanic eruptions on Earth, they may look completely different on other planets. And not every planet or space rock has a similar composition to Earth, which means that volcanic eruptions may not contain the same type of magma.
On Earth, magma is almost entirely made of molten rock. But what about a planet that does not have many rocks below its surface, or an ice planet?
There is an asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that is mainly composed of metal – iron and nickel.
The asteroid, known as Psyche 16, will be the focus of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the near future, as scientists aim to understand the formation of basic space rocks.
The volcanoes on planetary metallic objects have not been observed, just like Psyche 16, but experts have now modeled what the eruptions might look like.
“Frozen volcanoes are volcanic activity in icy worlds, and we have seen this happen on Saturn’s moon Enceladus,” said Ariana Soldati, of North Carolina State University. In the harsh furnace conditions, some of the iron will separate and sink to the bottom because it is heavier.
Scientists revealed that the mineral lava flowed 10 times faster than we are used to on Earth, and it spread much less.
The mineral lava will also travel under any rock flow and explode into a number of different channels towards the edges.
The smooth mineral lava will make a completely different impression on the surface of the planet, compared to the thick and coarse lava flows on Earth.
“If there were volcanoes on Psyche 16 – or on some other metallic object – it certainly wouldn’t look like steep Mount Fuji, which is an interesting land volcano. Instead, it would likely have gentle slopes and wide cones,” said Soldati. The way an iron volcano will be built – thin streams that extend over longer distances. “