A close-up of Jupiter’s moon Io which is covered in hundreds of volcanoes


A close-up of Jupiter’s moon Io which is covered in hundreds of volcanoes; on Thursday, a NASA spacecraft is scheduled to pass by one of Jupiter’s moons, providing astronomers with a close-up view of one of the solar system’s most volcanic regions.

One of the 80 known moons in Jupiter’s system, Io, will be the target of a flyby by the Juno probe, which has been orbiting Jupiter since July 2016. Numerous volcanoes dot the magma-encrusted surface of Io, and scientists are interested in learning how these eruptions affect Jupiter’s magnetosphere and the planet’s vibrant auroras.

The Juno spacecraft will make nine flybys of Io over 18 months. The probe will come within 930 miles of the moon’s surface on two close encounters.

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Juno captured a striking image of Io earlier this year from a distance of about 50,000 miles. The infrared image gave the impression that Io’s volcanically active surface, which is covered in thousands of volcanoes and molten silicate lava lakes, was glowing. According to NASA, the bright areas in the portrait denote regions with higher temperatures.

The spacecraft Juno was launched in 2011 and reached Jupiter five years later. After that, the spacecraft spent five years investigating Jupiter, the giant planet in our solar system, by looking through its thick clouds and analyzing its atmosphere and climate. The mission was created to aid astronomers in their understanding of the formation and evolution of Jupiter, as well as the origins of other gas giants in the solar system.

NASA extended the Juno mission’s current September 2025 deadline last year. The probe is still investigating Jupiter and its numerous moons.

The spacecraft has already been closely flown by two other moons: Europa earlier this year and Ganymede in 2021.

The principal investigator of the Juno mission and associate vice president of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Scott Bolton, said, “With each close flyby, we have been able to obtain a wealth of new information.” Although Juno’s sensors are made to study Jupiter, we are amazed at how well they work when used to study Jupiter’s moons.

The Juno probe will study Jupiter’s interior structure, internal magnetic field, atmosphere, and auroras throughout its extended mission. According to NASA, the spacecraft will repeatedly fly through the charged particle clouds surrounding Europa and Io to collect information on the radiation levels there. According to the agency, mission scientists also intend to spend time looking at the dust in Jupiter’s weak rings.