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Voyager photograph of Io.
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Courtesy of NASA

Chlorine Found in Io Atmosphere Leads to Salt?
News story originally written on June 4, 1999

Scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder found evidence supporting a theory that salt is present on Io. Io is one of Jupiter's many moons. Recent observations from the National Science Foundation's Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona led to the discovery of chlorine in Io's atmosphere.

Chlorine(Cl) along with sodium(Na) makes sodium chloride(NaCl), also known as common table salt. Salt is a very important mineral. The proportion of chlorine in Io's atmosphere is billions of times larger than Earth's. The chlorine is released into the air by huge volcanoes on the surface.

On Earth, most salt is produced when salt water evaporates. Scientists believe there may be underwater rivers on the moon producing the NaCl. It may also be produced by chemical reactions in Io's atmosphere.

Chlorine is a very important gas that breaks down ozone in Earth's atmosphere. This knowledge will help scientists understand Io's atmosphere and may eventually lead to a better understanding of our own environment.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA