Tides flowing in a subsurface ocean of molten rock, or magma, could explain why Jupiter's moon Io appears to have its volcanoes in the "wrong" place. New NASA research implies that oceans beneath the crusts of tidally stressed moons may be more common and last longer than expected. The phenomenon applies to oceans made from either magma or water, potentially increasing the odds for life elsewhere in the universe.
"This is the first time the amount and distribution of heat produced by fluid tides in a subterranean magma ocean on Io has been studied in detail," said Robert Tyler of the University of Maryland, College Park and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "We found that the pattern of tidal heating predicted by our fluid-tide model is able to produce the surface heat patterns that are actually observed on Io." Tyler is lead author of a paper on this research published June 2015 in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.