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New Juno Images Show Volcanic Activity on Jupiter’s Moon, Io

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The Io image that NASA released alongside news of the successful flyby on February 3, 2024. | Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Over the weekend, NASA’s Juno spacecraft made another close flyby of Jupiter’s moon, Io. Like a prior flyby last December, the encounter is designed to help scientists understand the volcanic nature of the moon, the most volcanic in the entire solar system.

Like the first pass, the latest one took the spacecraft within about 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) of Io. Scientists hope to determine if the moon has a global magma ocean hidden beneath its rough and rocky surface.

As always, the Juno team released the unprocessed images from the recent flyby, and unsurprisingly, talented citizen scientists have been doing incredible work on the photos.

Of the featured submissions created by Andrea Luck builds upon one of Juno’s new images and shows a close-up view of a pair of possible volcanic plumes on Io’s surface.

NASA Juno performs close flyby of Jovian moon, Io, on February 3, 2024.
Io — Volcanic World of Jupiter | Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/AndreaLuck © CC BY
NASA Juno performs close flyby of Jovian moon, Io, on February 3, 2024.
Io the Volcanic World of Jupiter — PJ 58 | Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/AndreaLuck © CC BY

“Io is the most volcanic world in the solar system, with eruptions significantly larger than Earth’s. The root cause is its orbit of Jupiter,” writes Forbes.

Io orbits closer to Jupiter than any of the gas giant’s other Galilean moons and has over 400 active volcanoes. The moon’s high volcanic activity is due to tidal heating, or the friction within the moon’s interior as it is pulled between Jupiter and other Galilean moons.

“Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanically active world in the solar system, with hundreds of volcanoes, some erupting lava fountains dozens of miles (or kilometers) high. Io is caught in a tug-of-war between Jupiter’s massive gravity and the smaller but precisely timed pulls from two neighboring moons that orbit farther from Jupiter — Europa and Ganymede,” NASA explains.

Io’s volcanoes are so powerful that they can even be seen by large terrestrial telescopes on Earth, although, unsurprisingly, Juno’s much closer perspective has key advantages to observing Io’s volcanic activity.

This is not the first time Juno captured volcanic plumes on Io. Last year, NASA released an image of an Io plume captured by JunoCam, a visible light camera aboard Juno.

NASA Juno performs close flyby of Jovian moon, Io, on February 3, 2024.
This image released in December 2023 was captured on October 15, 2023 as Juno flew past Io. | Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Despite gaining access to recent flyby data just a few days ago, citizen scientists have already delivered some truly stunning processed images of Io that show the Jovian moon in as much beautiful detail as any images ever.

NASA Juno performs close flyby of Jovian moon, Io, on February 3, 2024.
Io’s sub-Jovian Hemisphere in Jupiter — Shine from Orbit 58 | Credit: NASA/SwRI/JPL/MSSS/Jason Perry © CC NC SA
NASA Juno performs close flyby of Jovian moon, Io, on February 3, 2024.
Waxing Crescent of Io 2 | Credit: NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Pancaiks&Butter
NASA Juno performs close flyby of Jovian moon, Io, on February 3, 2024.
Io — PJ58 — 27 | Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Thomas Thomopoulos © CC BY
NASA Juno performs close flyby of Jovian moon, Io, on February 3, 2024.
Io, PJ58 First Glance | Credit: NASA / SwRI / Juno / Jan Dryák © CC BY
NASA Juno performs close flyby of Jovian moon, Io, on February 3, 2024.
PJ50 IO Image 26: Specular reflections and a Plume. | Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / MSSS / Björn Jónsson © CC NC SA

There will be much more to come from Juno as it investigates Jupiter, Io, and other Jovian moons. Beyond capturing great images, Juno is also helping scientists uncover not only the origins of Jupiter and its satellites but the solar system itself. It is currently in an extended mission phase and the most distant planetary orbiter in the solar system.



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