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NASA’s Juno probe captures volcanic plumes on Jupiter’s moon Io

Image courtesy: Google

NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft has beamed back new images of the volcanic plume on Jupiter’s moon Io, captured during the mission’s 17th flyby of the gas giant.

On December 21, during the winter solstice, four of Juno’s cameras captured images of the Jovian moon Io, the most volcanic body in our solar system.

JunoCam, the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU), the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) and the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVS) observed Io for over an hour, providing a glimpse of the moon’s polar regions as well as evidence of an active eruption.

The images show the moon half-illuminated with a bright spot seen just beyond the terminator, the day-night boundary.

After Io had passed into the darkness of total eclipse behind Jupiter, sunlight reflecting off nearby moon Europa helped to illuminate Io and its plume. SRU images released by SwRI depict Io softly illuminated by moonlight from Europa.

The brightest feature on Io in the image is thought to be a penetrating radiation signature, a reminder of this satellite’s role in feeding Jupiter’s radiation belts, while other features show the flow of activity from several volcanoes.

The brightest feature on Io in the image is thought to be a penetrating radiation signature, a reminder of this satellite’s role in feeding Jupiter’s radiation belts, while other features show the flow of activity from several volcanoes.

Io’s volcanoes were discovered by NASA’s Voyager spacecraft in 1979. Io’s gravitational interaction with Jupiter drives the moon’s volcanoes, which emit umbrella-like plumes of SO2 gas and produce extensive basaltic lava fields.

The recent Io images were captured at the halfway point of the mission, which is scheduled to complete a map of Jupiter in July 2021. Launched in 2011, Juno arrived at Jupiter in 2016.

The spacecraft orbits Jupiter every 53 days, studying its auroras, atmosphere, and magnetosphere.

The solar-powered Juno features eight scientific instruments designed to study Jupiter’s interior structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere.

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