What If The Moons Io And Ceres Switched Places?

Ceres (left) and Io (right)

Ceres and Io are two radically different objects. Ceres is a cold and icy dwarf planet, it is mostly geologically dead so its surface is incredibly distorted. It is accumulating impact craters due to a lack of geological activity. Ceres has a diameter of about 950 kilometers, meaning that the moon has a diameter 3.5 times longer.

Io on the other hand is the closest spherical moon to Jupiter and it is the most volcanically active object in the solar system. It also pretty much entirely lacks water unlike Ceres and also nearly entirely lacks creators as well. This is because they are constantly erased because of intense volcanic activity.

Io is also much larger than Ceres with a diameter of about 3650 kilometers. Its diameter is about 170 kilometers longer than that of our own Moon. So then, what would happen if Io and Ceres suddenly switched places and swapped the exact same stable orbits?

So Io, because it would switch places with Ceres would then appear in the asteroid belt. It would find itself between Mars and Jupiter. This would mean that it would be at a distance about three times further away from the Sun than the Earth. It would by far be the largest object in the asteroid belt taking up most of the mass.

All of that intense volcanic activity of Io would eventually come to a stop as suddenly there would not be Jupiter and the rest of the moons that caused tidal heating friction that generates heat within its interior would stop. And therefore volcanoes would not be able to spew hot molten rock onto its surface.

So although Io would be closer to the Sun which one expects would make it hotter and it would make its surface hotter overall. But at the same time it would also lack tidal heating necessary for active volcanoes to exist. So there will not be sudden changes in temperature where it goes from very hot during eruptions to very cold.

So, Io in the place of Ceres would not be capable of having plumes that should matter for a few hundred kilometers above the ground. It’s Lava Lakes that can stretch up to 200 kilometers would stop being active and would become fully solid. its entire interior as well would likely solidify over the course of many hundreds of millions of years. it would start accumulating craters because there would be nothing to erase them. However, it would still likely retain its distinct mostly yellow in color sulfur-rich surface for a really long time.

Ceres on the other hand, as it would switch places with Io would suddenly find itself at a distance from Jupiter of 420,000 kilometers. This distance is very similar to the distance of our Moon to Earth. So, Jupiter would dominate the sky from the side of Ceres facing it. Also series would then be further away from the Sun compared to its previous location in the asteroid belt.

Ceres would be about five times further away from the Sun than the Earth. so Jupiter and the rest of Jupiter’s large spherical moons would start pulling on Ceres. This would create immense friction within Ceres and thus Heat. So, based on some indications, Ceres is likely partially differentiated, meaning that each of its layer is not exactly neatly separated like it is on for example Europa where water ice is separated from the rock content into very different layers. Rather on Ceres, The Rock content is more mixed up with water ice.

But the tidal heating would be so great that the water would start melting and it would start separating from The Rock content. Because water is less dense than rock water would come out on the top of rocks. This process could cause dramatic changes to the surface of Ceres. Likely it would be completely remodeled to the point at which every single crater, mountain and other surface feature would disappear.

The upper layer and the surface of Ceres would eventually form a pure water ice crust that would insulate the hot interior of Ceres from the extremely low temperatures present at the distance of Jupiter from the Sun. So, quite possibly a massive water ocean of Ceres would then be underneath the water ice crust. There would likely be more than enough internal heating for that to happen.

Ceres at that point would be unrecognizable and it would start looking more like Europa and Enceladus. It would start forming an uncountable amount of huge cracks. Also, it would most likely start having volcanoes like Io but they would likely be on the rocky floor of the ocean. They would heat up the water to a very significant degree.

Ceres because of its position around Jupiter could then possibly become the most volcanically active object in the solar system taking that title away from Io. That would also then cause Ceres to have massive plumes in which water particles reach incredible Heights.

Over time, Ceres might even be able to develop some life form in that ocean. Now Ceres getting an ocean or at least a massive ocean because of sudden immense heating is not actually something that is guaranteed. Mimas is an object that orbits Saturn at a distance significantly closer than Enceladus.

They are both similar in size and both have lots of water in their composition. So, one would expect that Mimas also has a huge active ocean that would create massive surface cracks and active blooms like on Enceladus. But Mimas simply does not have indications that it has an immense and a very active ocean. The surface does not show it, it’s heavily cratered.

Mimas might still have an ocean it’s just that there is something causing for the indications of it to not show up on its surface. In the case Mimas does not have an ocean, it may be due to a lack of salt since salt lowers the point at which water freezes. Meaning less heating is required for water to stay liquid. If that is the case then we can actually expect Ceres to start being very active once tidal heating starts since there is evidence that it has a significant amount of salt.

Considering that Jupiter is three times more massive than Saturn and considering the distance of Ceres from Jupiter then the tidal heating would likely be more than enough to create liquid ocean on Ceres. Maybe the activity could be so intense that water completely leaves Ceres over time. Although that would inevitably happen to the Ceres anyways during the red giant phase of the Sun.

Overall, what can be understood is that if Io switched places with Ceres, Io would over time start looking slightly more like Ceres. The lack of geological activity would cause that because of crater accumulation. While with Ceres the probable scenario is that, it would start looking more like Europa and Enceladus.

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