What would a volcano – and its lava flows – seem like on a planetary physique made primarily of metallic? a pilot examine from North Carolina State University Provides insight into ferrovolcanism that may help scientists interpret landscape features on other worlds.
Volcanoes form when magma, which consists of partially molten solids beneath a planet’s surface, erupts. On Earth, that magma is mostly molten rock, composed largely of silica. But not every planetary body is made of rock – some may be primarily icy or even metallic.
“Cryovolcanism is volcanic activity on icy worlds, and we’ve seen it happen saturnAriana Soldati, assistant professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the work. “But ferrovolcanism, the volcanic activity on the metal world, has not yet been observed.”
Enter 16 Psyche, a 140-mile diameter asteroid located in the asteroid belt between Mars planet And Jupiter, Its surface, according to infrared and radar observations, is mainly iron and nickel. 16 Manas is the subject of the upcoming NASA The mission, and the asteroid, prompted Solati to think about what volcanic activity might look like on a metallic world.
“When we look at images of worlds opposite us, we still use what happens on Earth – such as evidence of volcanic eruptions – to interpret them,” Solati says. “However, we don’t have widespread metal volcanism on Earth, so we must imagine what those volcanic processes might look like on other worlds so that we can interpret the images more accurately.”
Solati defines two possible types of ferrovolcanism: type 1, or pure ferrovolcanism, which occurs entirely on metallic bodies; and type 2, simulated ferrovolcanism, which occurs on hybrid rocky-metal bodies.
In a pilot study, Solati and colleagues from the Syracuse Lava Project produced type 2 ferrovolcanism, in which the metal separates from the rock as magma forms.
“The Lava Project’s furnace is configured to melt rock, so we were working with metals (mainly iron) that occur naturally within them,” Soldati says. “When you melt rock under the extreme conditions of the furnace, some of the iron will separate and sink to the bottom because it’s heavy. By emptying the furnace completely, we were able to see that the metal compared to the rock How does magma behave?
Metallic lava flows travel 10 times faster and spread much thinner than rock flows, breaking up into a myriad of braided channels. Metal from the leading edge of rocky lava also travels substantially below the rock flow.
According to Soltati, the smooth, thin, ridged, widely spaced layers of metallic lava leave a very different effect on the planet’s surface than the often thick, rough, rocky streams we find on Earth.
“Even though this is a pilot project, there are a few things we can say,” says Soldati. “If there were 16 volcanoes on Psyche — or on any other metal body — they certainly wouldn’t look like an iconic terrestrial volcano, the steep-sided Mount Fuji. Instead, they’d probably have gentle slopes and wide cones. Like an iron volcano would be created – thin streams that spread over long distances.”
Reference: a. Soldati, JA Farrell, R. “Imagining and Constraining Ferrovolcanic Eruptions and Scenarios through Large-Scale Experiments”, by Wysocki and JA Carson, 17 March 2021, nature communication,
appears at work nature communication. James Farrell, Bob Wysocki and Jeff Carson of Syracuse University’s Syracuse Lava Project are co-authors of the work.