Voyager photograph of Io.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA
What is ozone?
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, making it the celestial body with the highest amount of Cl in our solar system.
"In fact, Io seems to have a higher proportion of chlorine in its atmosphere than any other object in the solar system," said CU-Boulder Associate Professor Nick Schneider. "The huge volcanoes on Io are similar to giant geysers, spewing material hundreds of miles into the atmosphere."
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.
"Chemical reactions may actually produce salt in the atmosphere," Schneider said. "The study of chlorine on Io is sure to benefit from the extensive research on Earth's ozone hole, which in turn benefited from the study of chlorine in the atmospheres of other planets."
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
Minerals occur naturally on rocky planets and form the building blocks of rocks. They are non-living, solid, and, like all matter, are made of atoms of elements. There are many different types of minerals...more
The Galileo spacecraft photographed volcanoes on the surface of Io, one of Jupiter's moons. Scientists believe there are at least 300 volcanoes on the moon. These volcanoes are somewhat different than...more
It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more
The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:19 p.m. EST, October 29th. The sky was clear and the weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit for the Unitied...more
A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more
Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials are demanding an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting...more
During a period of about two days in early May, 1998, the ACE spacecraft was immersed in plasma associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME). The SWICS instrument on ACE, which determines unambiguously...more