Yes Virginia, There Are Cryovolcanoes

Dear Mr. FP Jerome,

I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say that there are no cryovolcanoes.

Papa says “if FP Jerome says it, you know it to be so.”

Please tell me the truth. Are there cryovolcanoes on the ice moons of the outer gas giants?

Virginia O’Hambone

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong! They have been effected by youthful cynicism in this wondrous age. They do not believe in things that they could see, given a suitable telescope, or perhaps a powerful space probe. You see, Virginia, all eyes, be they child’s eyes or man’s eyes, are small. In this great universe of ours it would be foolish to compare men to insects, since insects are pretty sweet and all, and have been around longer than us, outnumber us, and… 

    Yes, Virginia, there are cryovolcanoes! They exist as certainly as great red storms on Jupiter or that downright freaky hexagon on the north pole of Saturn, and you know that the wonders of the solar system abound to give you the highest joy and beauty. Alas! How dreary the worlds would be if there were no cryovolcanoes! It would be as dreary as if there were no platypus, no comb jelly, there would be no true things to find childlike joy in, only poetry and romance would exist to make tolerant this existence. We can have enjoyment, knowing that simple hydrocarbons erupt in atmosphere-piercing plumes from pressurized subsurface chambers, a mere 1.2 billion kilometers from the birthplace of the species.

Not to believe in cryovolcanoes! You might as well not believe in Kuiper Belt objects! You might listen to some whackaloon on the internet claim that the space program is fake, but what does that prove? Nobody sees cryovolcanoes with their eyes, and everyone hears nitwits on the internet, but that does not mean that methane and ammonia cannot behave like molten rock in subzero temperatures! Some of the most real things in the world are those that neither men nor children can see. When Rutherford used a glass gun to shoot radiation at a thin sheet of gold foil, do you think he saw the atom? No, he only saw the evidence of it’s existence, and conceived the unseen wonders of the subatomic world. 

If you tear apart the baby’s rattle and find out what makes the noise, that’s good science, Virginia, but your ethics board is going to deny your funding if you’re at an accredited institution. There is a veil of ignorance that covers the visible and invisible universe. Only with knowledge, diligence, honesty, imagination, and the courage to go wherever the evidence takes you, will you push aside that veil of ignorance and superstition for the rest of mankind. Are cryovolcanoes real? Ah, Virginia, in all the worlds there are things people believe far more strongly with far less evidence.

No cryovolcanoes! Humbug! They erupt now and they will erupt in the future! A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now (a blink in the cosmological eye) they will continue to erupt and make glad the childlike hearts of astronomers everywhere!

Also, you should show that hexagon on Saturn to your friends. It’ll blow their minds.



Unless you're friends with astronomers.