Apr 22, 2024

Revealing Io: Juno Mission Unveils Stunning Features of Jupiter’s Moon

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“Io is simply littered with volcanoes, and we caught a few of them in action,” said Dr. Scott Bolton, who is the principal investigator of Juno. “We also got some great close-ups and other data on a 200-kilometer-long (127-mile-long) lava lake called Loki Patera. There is amazing detail showing these crazy islands embedded in the middle of a potentially magma lake rimmed with hot lava. The specular reflection our instruments recorded of the lake suggests parts of Io’s surface are as smooth as glass, reminiscent of volcanically created obsidian glass on Earth.”

Loki Patera was first imaged by NASA’s Voyager 1 in 1979, revealing a very active surface and the most active of the four Galilean moons. The reason for Io’s immense volcanic activity is due to tidal heating, which occurs from Io’s somewhat elliptical orbit around the much larger Jupiter, which causes Io to orbit closer and farther away to Jupiter throughout its small orbit. This results in Jupiter’s massive gravity stretching and expanding the small moon, leading to friction within Io’s core, and eventually to heat. Since this process is ongoing, this means Io has been volcanically active for eons and could be volcanically active eons from now, as well.

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