February 23, 2024

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NASA's Juno captures stunning images of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io in its closest flyby yet

NASA's Juno captures stunning images of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io in its closest flyby yet

Jupiter's moon Io, its night side illuminated by sunlight reflected from Jupiter, or “Jupitershine.” Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS, Emma Wälimäki © CC BY

NASAJuno's Juno spacecraft has conducted its closest flyby of Earth JupiterIo's moon has been around for more than two decades, taking detailed images with its JunoCam instrument.

NASA's Juno spacecraft has just made the closest flyby of Jupiter's moon Io, which any spacecraft has done in more than 20 years. One of the instruments on this spacecraft called “JunoCam” has returned stunning, high-resolution images – and the raw data is now available for you to process, enhance and investigate.

On December 30thyIn 2023, Juno will come within about 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) of the solar system's most volcanic surface. It made its second flyby of Io on February 3. The second flyby went mostly over Io's southern hemisphere, while the previous flybys were over the north. There is a lot to see in these photos! There is evidence of an active plume, towering mountain peaks with well-defined shadows, lava lakes, and some with clear islands.

Solving all of this will be a challenge, and JunoCam scientists need your help. Former JunoCam volunteers like Gerald Eichstadt have seen their processed images appear in several photos Scientific publications And Press statements.

You can find new raw images, see the creations of other image wizards, and submit your own work at: https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam/processing.

The Juno spacecraft is in orbit around Jupiter

An artist's concept of the Juno spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter. Credit: NASA

NASA's Juno mission

The Juno mission, launched by NASA on August 5, 2011, is a pioneering space exploration project aimed at understanding Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. Juno's primary goals include exploring Jupiter's atmosphere, magnetic environment, weather patterns and structure to gain insight into its formation and evolution.

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The spacecraft, equipped with a suite of scientific instruments, entered Jupiter's orbit on July 4, 2016, after a five-year journey through space. One of its prominent instruments, JunoCam, provides detailed images of Jupiter's clouds and storms, providing unprecedented views of the planet's atmosphere.

The Juno mission highlights the importance of studying gas giants in understanding the history of the solar system and the formation of planetary systems elsewhere in the universe. By closely examining Jupiter's formation, gravitational field, magnetic field, and polar magnetosphere, Juno contributes significantly to our knowledge of the fundamental processes that shaped the early solar system.

Volcanic eruption on Io Voyager 1

NASA's Voyager 1 obtained this image of a volcanic eruption on Io on March 4, 1979, about 11 hours before the spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter's moon. Credit: NASA/JPL

Jupiter's moon Io

Io is one of Jupiter's largest moons and the fourth largest moon in our solar system. It is famous for its intense volcanic activity, making it the most volcanically active body in the solar system.

Io, discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610, plays a crucial role in our understanding of volcanic processes on other worlds. Its surface is spread across hundreds of volcanoes, some of which spew plumes of sulfur and sulfur dioxide up to 500 kilometers (about 300 miles) into space. This intense volcanic activity is due primarily to tidal warming resulting from its gravitational interaction with Jupiter and the other Galilean moons, Europa and Ganymede.

Io's orbit lies within Jupiter's powerful magnetic field, and is also subject to massive tidal forces that bend and heat it from the inside, fueling its constant volcanic eruptions. These geological features create a dynamic and ever-changing landscape, with lakes of molten lava, vast lava flows, and towering volcanic plumes, providing a unique laboratory for the study of extraterrestrial volcanoes.

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