A stunning NASA image shows Io’s volcano-riddled surface

NASA’s Juno spacecraft’s mission to Jupiter has targeted the moon Io.

The agency said in a press release sharing a stunning image of the moon’s volcanic surface taken by the Jupiter Infrared Auroral Mapper this summer that it is scheduled to map Jupiter’s moon on Thursday.

The December 15 flyby was the first of nine, two of which were just 930 miles away.

The July 5 photo was taken as the spacecraft flew by at a distance of about 50,000 miles, with brighter patches indicating where temperatures were warmer.

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The volcano-strewn surface of Jupiter's moon Io was imaged in the infrared by the Juno spacecraft's Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) imager on July 5, 2022 as it flew by at a distance of about 80,000 kilometers.  Lighter spots indicate higher temperatures in this image.

The volcano-strewn surface of Jupiter’s moon Io was imaged in the infrared by the Juno spacecraft’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) imager on July 5, 2022 as it flew by at a distance of about 80,000 kilometers. Lighter spots indicate higher temperatures in this image.
(Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM)

“The team is very pleased that Juno’s expanded mission includes the study of Jupiter’s moons. Each close flyby allowed us to glean a wealth of new information,” Scott Bolton, principal investigator at Juno of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, said in a statement. “Juno sensors were designed to study Jupiter, but we were amazed at how well they could do double duty by observing Jupiter’s moons.”

Io, the most volcanically active world in the solar system, will remain an object of the Juno team’s attention for the next year and a half.

Solar-powered Juno, now in the second year of its mission to explore Jupiter’s interior, had already made close flybys of Ganymede over the past year and Europa in early 2022.

This is the last view captured by the JunoCam instrument on NASA's Juno spacecraft before the Juno instruments were shut down in preparation for orbit insertion.

This is the last view captured by the JunoCam instrument on NASA’s Juno spacecraft before the Juno instruments were shut down in preparation for orbit insertion.
(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

NASA said Juno scientists will use these flybys to conduct the first high-resolution surveillance campaign on the magma-encrusted moon to study Io’s volcanoes and how volcanic eruptions interact with Jupiter’s powerful magnetosphere and aurora.

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The moon – which is slightly larger than Earth’s moon – has hundreds of volcanoes, some erupting lava fountains are tens of kilometers high.

En route to the frigid worlds that inhabit the outer regions of our solar system, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft sped past Jupiter, capturing Io, the planet's third largest moon, and suffering a volcanic explosion.

En route to the frigid worlds that inhabit the outer regions of our solar system, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sped past Jupiter, capturing Io, the planet’s third largest moon, and suffering a volcanic explosion.
(Photo credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Cover photo courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Its remarkable activity is the result of a tug-of-war between Jupiter’s strong gravity and smaller but precisely timed pulls from Europa and Ganymede.

Io was discovered by the famous Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610.

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The discovery, along with three other moons of Jupiter, marked the first time a moon has been discovered orbiting a planet other than Earth.

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