See Detailed New Images of Io From Another NASA Flyby of the Solar System’s Most Volcanic World | Smart News

An image of Io, Jupiter's third-largest moon, appearing rust-colored with many visible black pockmarks, which are mountain ranges and surface volcanoes as seen from afar.

Io, Jupiter’s third-largest moon, photographed by NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

NASA launched explosive new views of the photo voltaic system’s most volcanically energetic world this week, thrilling astronomers and prompting discoveries. Amongst different standout options, the photographs present a attainable double-plumed eruption, which has by no means been seen in such element earlier than.

Io, Jupiter’s third-largest moon, displays a rust-like, orange-yellow hue. In analyzing the photographs, captured Saturday by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, a number of scientists have already recognized lava flows, volcanic plumes, mountains and probably the most vivid depictions but of a number of the moon’s estimated 400 floor volcanoes.

These observations add to astronomers’ steadily rising understanding of Io, which was first photographed up shut throughout a 1979 flyby of Voyager 1, which revealed the world was volcanic. Voyager 2 made its method simply months later, and the Galileo probe adopted, visiting the moon all through the Nineteen Nineties and 2000s. Now, the Juno mission, which arrived at Jupiter in 2016, is contributing to a clearer understanding of the supervolcanic moon’s tectonic and ever-changing geography.

“That’s the fantastic thing about Io,” Jani Radebaugh, a planetary scientist at Brigham Younger College who shouldn’t be instantly a part of the Juno mission, tells the New York Occasions’ Katrina Miller. “Io modifications on daily basis, each minute, each second.”

The Juno spacecraft accomplished its first flyby of Io, capturing gorgeous imagery, in late December 2023—and this week, it repeated the historic feat. Each instances, Juno got here inside 930 miles of the moon’s floor, marking the closest encounters with Io achieved by any spacecraft in additional than 20 years.

However Juno’s photos inform only one a part of the story. Different knowledge collected by scientific devices through the flight, which is able to take weeks or months for scientists to research, will reveal larger secrets and techniques in regards to the moon’s setting.

As scientists press ahead with learning Io, their most lofty objective is to know “what’s actually behind the engine that’s driving all of the volcanoes,” Scott Bolton, a physicist on the Southwest Analysis Institute, which leads the Juno mission, tells the New York Occasions. “As a result of they’re in every single place.”

A photograph of Io, as taken from the Juno spacecraft approximately 930 miles away.

Io, as captured by the Juno spacecraft from roughly 930 miles away.


In contrast to volcanoes on Earth, these on Io don’t resemble mountains, Julie Rathbun, a planetary scientist at Cornell College not concerned with the Juno mission, tells Scientific American’s Meghan Bartels. As an alternative, they give the impression of being extra like lakes of lava.

Io is consistently underneath stress, influenced not solely by the gravitational pull of Jupiter, but in addition by its moons Europa and Ganymede. These forces stretch and compress the moon, producing warmth that may spur its eruptions. However how this warmth is saved and transported inside the moon stays unknown.

Two prevailing theories presently search to elucidate Io’s volcanic exercise: The moon accommodates both a world ocean of liquid magma or a sizzling metallic core, scientists say. Infrared and ultraviolet cameras on the Juno spacecraft will proceed to assemble knowledge from the moon, even because it travels away from it, within the hopes of shifting the needle on one of many two hypotheses—or, maybe, revealing a shocking third rationalization.

Four side-by-side images of some of Jupiter's moons. From left to right: Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto

Earlier photos of 4 of Jupiter’s moons, proven so as of accelerating distance from the planet. From left to proper: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.


By in search of modifications on Io between the 2 latest flybys, astronomers might additionally uncover new clues about its volcanic exercise over time.

“We’ll get an excellent storyboard of how the volcanoes are various on Io, when are new ones erupting, how huge are they,” Bolton tells Scientific American.

The Juno spacecraft has now spent greater than seven years orbiting Jupiter, and most of that journey was at safer distances, as its devices measured the fuel large’s magnetic discipline. However not too long ago, its so-called “prolonged mission”—throughout which the probe has shortened the circumference of its orbit round Jupiter—has allowed it to go nearer to and {photograph} the moons Ganymede in 2021 and Europa in 2022.

A graphic showing how the Juno spacecraft has orbited Jupiter over time -- gradually, it has shortened its orbit, allowing it to be closer to the planet's moons yet increasing the likelihood of collisions or damage from radiation.

The Juno spacecraft has step by step shortened its orbital path round Jupiter on its prolonged mission, permitting it to maneuver nearer to the planet’s moons. Nonetheless, this will increase the chance of collisions or injury from radiation.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI

With its orbital interval now minimize to 33 days, these gorgeous flybys characterize the twilight of Juno’s journey. Because it spirals ever nearer to Jupiter, the spacecraft is rising extra more likely to be destroyed by radiation or crash into one of many planet’s inside moons, writes Sky & Telescope’s David Dickinson. Funding for the mission is ready to finish in September 2025.

No matter Juno’s destiny, astronomers gained’t have to attend very lengthy till the Jovian system is explored once more. In April 2023, the European Area Company launched its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE), which is able to attain Jupiter in 2031 and discover its moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. And NASA’s Europa Clipper, set to launch in eight months, will get to its namesake moon even sooner, in April 2030.

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