Blast Away

Look: 7 space volcanoes that shaped the solar system as we know it

Spoiler: the biggest ones aren’t on Earth.

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Space is full of explosions. Volcanoes abound in our solar system, and some bodies in space (besides Earth) are hotbeds of geological activity.

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Exploring our solar system’s active and inactive volcanoes could help us better understand how planets and moons formed into the celestial bodies we know today.

Here are 7 surprising spots we’ve found volcanoes in the Solar System:

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7. Eruptions on Io

Jupiter’s moon, Io, is the most geologically active body in the solar system. This image, taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft in 2007, shows a 180-mile high plume rising above one of its volcanoes.

NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Hundreds of volcanoes erupt on the hellish landscape of this moon every day.

Future explorations could help us better understand how Jupiter’s gravity affects the heat buildup inside Io.

6. Enceladus’ Icy Spew

Not all volcanoes release hot lava. Some are cryovolcanoes that shoot out substances like water vapor and ice particles — like the ones on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus.

NASA/JPL
This incredible shot of ice volcanoes shooting streams of ice and vapor from beneath the moon’s frozen surface was captured by NASA’s Cassini during a 2005 flyby.NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

5. Probing Pluto’s past

In 2015, New Horizons captured a strange formation on Pluto that researchers suspect is an inactive cryovolcano.

NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Wright Mons is the informal name for the icy feature. It’s 2.5 miles tall, and if researchers can confirm that it is, in fact, a volcano, it would be the largest one found in the outer solar system.NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

NASA/JPL/USGS

4. Icy flows on Triton

While Neptune is incapable of hosting volcanoes thanks to its gaseous makeup, the planet’s largest moon, Triton, is home to plains of volcanic activity.

NASA’s Voyager spacecraft captured black-and-white images of the icy lava flows on Triton in 1989.NASA/JPL/Universities Space Research Association/Lunar & Planetary Institute

3. Mars Monster

The largest volcano in our solar system is Olympus Mons on Mars, which stands at about 16 miles tall.

NASA/JPL
Olympus Mons is currently inactive, with its last eruption estimated at 25 million years ago.MOLA

2. Venus is ... alive?

Our sister planet is home to at least 1,600 major volcanoes, and some might still be active today. So far only inactive ones have been spotted, but upcoming missions will capture new views of Venus’ topography.

NASA/JPL
This is Maat Mons, the largest volcano on Venus found so far. The image was computer-generated by NASA’s Magellan Mission and released in 1992.NASA/JPL

NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

1. Explosions on the moon

Earth’s moon has signs of once-active volcanoes that can be seen on its surface. This patch, informally called Ina, is the remains of volcanic activity on the Moon, and was first discovered during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971.

Since then, over 70 similar spots — called Irregular Mare Patches — have been located on the moon (indicated here in red). These hint at volcanic activity that likely ended within the last 100 million years.NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

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