USW volcano specialist on BBC documentary

Dr Ian Skilling of USW and Dr David McGarvie appear on Horizon: Space Volcanoes. May 2017. Neil Gibson

Dr Ian Skilling of USW and Dr David McGarvie appear on Horizon: Space Volcanoes.


A UNIVERSITY of South Wales (USW) lecturer is featuring on a BBC documentary that looks at the relationship between Earth’s volcanoes and those on other planets.

Dr Ian Skilling, Senior Lecturer in Volcanology and Geology course leader at USW, is featured on Horizon: Space Volcanoes, which airs at 9pm on Tuesday, May 23.

The episode follows an international team of volcanologists - from the UK and Denmark - as they explore the volcanism of Iceland. 

The scientists are carrying out ground-breaking research into the relationship between volcanoes on Earth and those found elsewhere in the solar system.  Their work has allowed them, for example, to discover the extent of the ancient Martian ice pack, extract life forms from volcanic hotspots, and use cutting edge techniques to measure the cooling rate of lava flows. 

Dr Ian Skilling of USW and Dr David McGarvie appear on Horison: Space Vaolcanoes. May 2017. Neil Gibson

This research has allowed scientists to discover that a moon of Jupiter, Io, has volcanoes that erupt a primitive form of lava called ultramafic lava.  And through this, confirmed, that Io is a very good model for the early Earth. 

One experiment uses artificial lava, ground out of basalt gravel.  Once it reaches 1,200 degrees Celsius, it is poured over ice.  This is an explosive and accurate model of what happens when volcanoes on Mars erupted over ice. 

To help illustrate the film, the makers have worked in collaboration with BDH - a special effects house – to produce some spectacular computer graphics to show what these volcanoes would be like if we could see them close up. 

Dr Ian Skilling of USW and Dr David McGarvie appear on Horison: Space Vaolcanoes. May 2017. Neil GibsonThe images have been based closely on real NASA and ESA images and data of the volcanoes. The computer graphics include spectacular shots of the geysers of Enceladus (a moon of Saturn) and the recently discovered ice-volcanoes of Pluto. 

This film reveals how scientists have been recently revaluating the roles of volcanoes in the solar system, and how these discoveries also provide us with a better understanding of the Earth itself, how life originated, how our atmosphere was created, and even what the future holds for Earth. 


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