Hubble and James Webb telescopes team up to study Jupiter’s volcanic moon

Each the Hubble and James Webb telescopes might be used to remotely research Io, which is one in every of Jupiter’s moons and probably the most volcanically lively physique within the photo voltaic system.

The research will complement the upcoming flybys of Io by Nasa’s Juno spacecraft and can present insights into its contributions to the plasma setting round Jupiter. Juno made its closest flyby of Io in July, when it got here inside 22,000 km of it.

“The timing of this mission is vital. Over the subsequent 12 months, Juno will buzz previous Io a number of occasions, providing uncommon alternatives to mix in situ and distant observations of this advanced system,” stated Dr Kurt Retherford, from Southwest Analysis Institute (SWRI), which helps fund the mission. The group will use round 4.7 per cent of obtainable time for Hubble observations this cycle, which might be supplemented with 4.8 hours of Webb observing time.

Whereas each are designed to check the cosmos, Webb and Hubble shouldn’t have an identical capabilities and may due to this fact be used to enhance one another in scientific research. Webb primarily seems to be on the universe within the infrared, whereas Hubble research it primarily at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths, though it has some infrared functionality. Webb additionally has a a lot larger mirror than Hubble.

“We hope to achieve new insights into Io’s dramatic volcanism, plasma-moon interactions and the impartial gasoline and plasma populations that propagate by Jupiter’s huge magnetosphere and set off intense Jovian auroral emissions,” Retherford added.

Io’s escaping ambiance is the dominant supply of fabric within the Jovian magnetosphere, an enormous bubble of charged particles swirling across the gasoline big. The connection between Io’s volcanos, floor volatiles and ambiance and Jupiter’s ionosphere has remained troublesome to quantify and perceive till now.

Dr Fran Bagenal, the mission’s co-principal investigator from the College of Colorado Boulder, stated: “For instance, how a lot sulphur is transported from Io to Europa’s floor? How do auroral options on Io evaluate with aurora on Earth — the northern lights — and Jupiter?”

Io is the innermost massive moon of Jupiter and provides a lot of the charged particles within the planet’s magnetosphere. The Io Plasma Torus (IPT) is a doughnut-shaped cloud of ions and electrons surrounding Jupiter, created when atmospheric gases escaping from Io are ionised. Electrons collide with the ions, which take up power from the collisions and launch it as ultraviolet mild, which will be detected by telescopes.

“Most of those supplies don’t really escape straight out of the volcanoes, however somewhat are related to the sublimation of sulphur dioxide frost from Io’s dayside floor,” stated Caltech’s Dr Katherine de Kleer, one other co-investigator with experience in James Webb information evaluation. “The interplay between Io’s ambiance and the encircling plasma offers the escape mechanism for gases launched from the moon’s frozen floor.” 

Juno’s main mission studied Jupiter’s inside, magnetosphere and aurora, whereas its prolonged mission included flybys of the Galilean moons resembling Io, Callisto, Europa and Ganymede. Whereas the Europa Clipper and Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) missions are scheduled to reach at Jupiter in 2029-2031, neither of those missions fly by Io.

“The prospect for a holistic strategy to Io investigations has not been obtainable since a collection of Galileo spacecraft flybys in 1999-2000 had been supported by Hubble with a prolific 30-orbit marketing campaign,” Retherford stated. “The mixture of Juno’s intensive in situ measurements with our remote-sensing observations will undoubtedly advance our understanding of Io’s function in driving coupled phenomena within the Jupiter system.”

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