SETI [ASTRO] Chlorine Discovery Near Io Hints At Salt Presence On Surface

Larry Klaes (
Thu, 03 Jun 1999 11:17:17 -0400

>X-Authentication-Warning: majordom set sender to owner-astro using -f >Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1999 0:23:00 GMT >From: Ron Baalke <> >To: >Subject: [ASTRO] Chlorine Discovery Near Io Hints At Salt Presence On Surface >Sender: >Reply-To: Ron Baalke <> > >Office of Public Relations >University of Colorado-Boulder >354 Willard Administrative Center >Campus Box 9 >Boulder, Colorado 80309-0009 >(303) 492-6431 > >Contact: >Nick Schneider, 303-492-7672 >Jim Scott, 303-492-3114 > >June 2, 1999 > >Note to Editors: Contents embargoed until 4:30 p.m. on June 2. The telephone >number for the AGU press room in Boston is 617-954-3094. > >CHLORINE DISCOVERY NEAR JUPITER MOON HINTS AT SALT PRESENCE ON SURFACE > >The recent discovery of chlorine above Io, a moon of Jupiter, indicates the >odd object may hold common table salt, according to two University of >Colorado at Boulder scientists. > >Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system, said CU-Boulder >Associate Professor Nick Schneider and former post-doctoral researcher >Michael Kueppers of CU's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. >They believe the presence of chlorine -- an ingredient of sodium chloride, >or common table salt -- is related to the violent volcanic activity. > >"In fact, Io seems to have a higher proportion of chlorine in its atmosphere >than any other object in the solar system," said Schneider. > >"The huge volcanoes on Io are similar to giant geysers, spewing material >hundreds of miles into the atmosphere, said Schneider. The two researchers >used a telescope at the National Science Foundation's Kitt Peak National >Observatory in Arizona to make their findings, including the discovery of >chlorine emissions in the doughnut-shaped ring of charged particles >surrounding Jupiter known as the Io torus. > >The Io torus, which is five times larger than Jupiter, glows with a power >greater than all the electricity generated on Earth, he said. > >Prior to the discovery of chlorine, the only elements observed escaping >from Io's atmosphere were sulfur, oxygen, sodium and potassium. > >The most common inorganic compounds of chlorine are sodium chloride, >which is ordinary table salt, and hydrogen chloride, a colorless gas that >is emitted from the volcanoes, said Schneider. > >"It's not yet clear how salt would form on Io," said Schneider. "Unlike >Earth, Io has no oceans that could evaporate and leave behind salt deposits. >But it is possible that underground rivers or aquifers fuel Io's volcanoes >and may carry dissolved salt. Salt also could be made by chemical reactions >in Io's atmosphere." > >A paper on the subject was presented by Schneider and Kueppers at the >spring meeting of the American Geophysical Union held in Boston June 1 >through June 4. Kueppers is currently at the University of Berne in >Switzerland. > >The recently discovered chlorine may be emitted by Io's volcanoes or may >come from the breakup of salt on Io's surface by charged particles in the >torus that constantly bombard the surface of the moon. > >The discovery also has implications for the chemistry of Io's atmosphere, he >said. On Earth, relatively small amounts of chlorine from human-made CFC's >play a major role in breaking down fragile molecules like ozone in the >atmosphere. > >"My guess is that we won't find any ozone on Io," said Schneider, noting the >proportion of chlorine in Io's atmosphere is a billion times greater than >that on Earth. > >"Chemical reactions may actually produce salt in the atmosphere," he 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." > >Kitt Peak National Observatory is one of four divisions of the National >Optical Astronomy Observatories. NOAO is operated by the Association of >Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under cooperative agreement >with NSF. > >

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