Juno Spacecraft Sees Volcanic Eruption On Jupiter’s Moon Io

Posted: Jan 4 2019, 9:47am CST | by , Updated: Jan 4 2019, 9:50am CST, in Latest Science News


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Juno Spacecraft Sees Volcanic Eruption on Jupiter’s Moon Io
JunoCam shows a half-illuminated moon with a volcanic plume beyond the terminator. Credit: NASA/SwRI/MSSS

Researchers have captured new images of a volcanic plume on moon Io during the Juno mission's 17th flyby.

Jupiter’s innermost moon Io is the only body other than Earth where active magma volcanoes are known to exist. The Jovian moon is extremely active and its volcanoes spew about 100 times more lava each year than all of the volcanoes on Earth. During NASA Juno’s 17th flyby of Jupiter, four of the spacecraft's cameras observed Io moon for more than an hour and spotted lava flowing on its surface for the first time.

"We knew we were breaking new ground with a multi-spectral campaign to view Io's polar region, but no one expected we would get so lucky as to see an active volcanic plume shooting material off the moon's surface," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of the Juno mission. "This is quite a New Year's present showing us that Juno has the ability to clearly see plumes."

The first images were taken by JunoCam on Dec. 21. Shortly after Io entered the darkness of total eclipse behind Jupiter, Stellar Reference Unit (SRU) camera captured more images of the moon. These images show Io moon softly illuminated by moonlight from another Jupiter's moons and the brightest feature here is suspected to be a penetrating radiation signature. The glow of activity from several of Io's volcanoes can also been seen in the images.

"As a low-light camera designed to track the stars, the SRU can only observe Io under very dimly lit conditions. Dec. 21 gave us a unique opportunity to observe Io's volcanic activity with the SRU using only Europa's moonlight as our lightbulb.” Heidi Becker, lead of Juno's Radiation Monitoring Investigation at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.

Io's volcanoes were discovered by NASA's Voyager spacecraft in 1979. Since then, the moon has been a subject of high interest. Previous studies have depicted the global distribution and wide range of volcanic activity on Io and pointed to a complex heating process within the moon. The latest images taken by Juno provide new insights into Io and its relation with Jupiter and other moons.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which orbits Jupiter every 53 days, is now at the halfway point of the mission. The spacecraft aims to understand the planet's origins, interior structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere and is scheduled to complete a map of Jupiter in July 2021.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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