June 23, 2024

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Io: Flying over a lava lake on Jupiter's nightmarish moon

Io: Flying over a lava lake on Jupiter's nightmarish moon

Using data from the Juno mission, which has been studying the Jupiter system since 2016, NASA researchers created an animation of an island in the middle of a vast lava lake on Jupiter's moon.

Since the Voyager missions, planetary scientists have known that Io, one of Jupiter's four large moons, has more intense volcanic activity than any other body in the solar system.

Lava from hundreds of volcanoes spews sulfur and lava thousands of kilometers high.

In December 2023 and February of this year, Juno made two very close passes to the surface of Eos, coming within about 1,500 kilometers. The images revealed the northern latitudes of the moon for the first time.

“Io is covered in volcanoes, and we've been able to turn some of them on,” said NASA's Juno mission principal investigator Scott Bolton, who presented the latest findings at the European Geophysical Society conference in Vienna.

“We also captured some amazing close-ups of a lava lake called Loki Patera, which is 200 kilometers long,” Bolton said. NASA announcement.

The scarred surface of the virus in this Juno image (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

In the center of the hot lake stands out a large island covered in volcanic sediments, its surface “almost as smooth as glass.”

The heat fueling Eos' intense volcanic activity comes from the gravitational effects of Jupiter and its other large moons. The gravitational pull causes a type of tide that distorts the interior of the satellite and creates internal friction that releases heat.

Dozens of hotspots are visible in Juno's infrared image of Europa (NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SWRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM)

According to recent observations, Io has been volcanically active since its formation about 4.6 billion years ago.

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