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As far as we know, Jupiter's moon Io has the most volcanic activity of any known celestial body. It has the most volcanoes that are active and they're erupting frequently. On Earth (the third planet from the Sun) there's lightning during volcanic eruptions and on Venus (the 2nd planet) there's lightning too, probably also during eruptions. Has any lightning ever been detected during an eruption on Io, or isn't it possible for lightning to occur during eruptions on Io for some reason?

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  • $\begingroup$ Why do you lose two reputation points if your question gets tweeted? Isn't that something good that should actually gain you reputation? Also, shouldn't the OP be asked whether his/her question can be published on Twitter? $\endgroup$ – Ioannes Jul 24 '20 at 5:10
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I would bet against lightning due to the very thin SO2 atmosphere; under normal conditions the pressure is 0.3 to 3 nbar, with plumes reaching 5 to 40 nbar. That does not sound like it could convey lightening. But given that the environment also has a lot of ionization there might also be all sorts of plasma and vacuum breakdown discharges. In short, I suspect this could go either way, but if there were lightning it would be rather different than on Earth since it would be a near-vacuum discharge.

As far as I have been able to find, there are no empirical detections of lightning at Io. I suspect the radio measurements that could detect it would be swamped by the overall noise of the Jupiter-Io environment.

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  • $\begingroup$ So lightning needs an atmosphere in the first place? I thought air isn't necessary for lightning since the electrons and protons would be taken from the ground and the cloud, not from the atmosphere. Also, isn't the atmosphere in the volcanic plume heated that much that it becomes much thicker? The temperature reaches about 1,300 C (2,400 F). I've posted a question concerning this here: astronomy.stackexchange.com/questions/37034/… $\endgroup$ – Ioannes Jul 23 '20 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ You can get vacuum breakdown beyond 1 GV/m where electrons are shed by the negative side, hits the positive side releasing some positive nuclei, and a plasma arc emerges. But it is not clear that you would have such fields. $\endgroup$ – Anders Sandberg Jul 23 '20 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ I meant Gigavolt. $\endgroup$ – Anders Sandberg Jul 23 '20 at 15:14

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