Research

Ferrovolcanism

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Beyond Earth, scientists expect to find objects formed by a volcanism much different than what we typically see here. Researchers used Syracuse University’s Lava Project apparatus to simulate ferrovolcanism — in this case with a mixture containing both metallic lava and silicate lava. Interestingly, the team found that the two types of lava flow largely independently of one another. The silicate lava is much more viscous but less dense and flows relatively slowly. The metallic lava is far less viscous and flows about 10 times faster, but it’s also denser, so most of it flows beneath the silicate lava, with only a few fingers that burst out atop the other lava or erupt in braided flows from the leading edge of the flow.

The upcoming Psyche mission will explore a metal asteroid (of the same name) that’s thought to be the remains of an early planet’s nickel-iron core. Studies like this one are giving planetary physicists new insight into the kinds of geological features await us there. (Video and research credit: A. Soldati et al.; via AGU Eos; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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