During its 16th flyby, NASA’s Juno probe captured a volcanic eruption on Io, one of the Jupiter’s moon, as the spacecraft was showcasing the moon’s polar regions. Captured by four instruments of Juno, such as the JunoCam, the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU), the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), and the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVS), the image depicts an unexpected lava plume erupting from Io’s surface.
“We knew we were breaking new ground with a multi-spectral campaign to view Io’s polar region, but no one expected we would get so lucky as to see an active volcanic plume shooting material off the moon’s surface. This is quite a New Year’s present showing us that Juno has the ability to clearly see plumes,” explained Scott Bolton, the principal investigator of the Juno mission.
NASA’s Juno captured the first images on December 21st at 12:00, 12:15 and 12:20 UTC when Io was about to get shadowed by Jupiter and entirely eclipsed.
Volcanic Eruption on Io Recorded By NASA’s Juno
“The ground is already in shadow, but the height of the plume allows it to reflect sunlight, much like the way mountaintops or clouds on the Earth continue to be lit after the sun has set,” said Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, the JunoCam lead from the Planetary Science Institute.
By 12:40 UTC, Jupiter, the most massive planet of our Solar System, totally eclipsed Io, but the sunlight reflected by Europa allowed NASA’s Juno to continue its observation on the volcanic eruption on Io.
Io, one of the Jupiter’s moons, is renowned for its volcanic activity which, according to the scientists, is mainly caused due to the tidal interactions with Jupiter and the freezing of Io’s thin atmosphere when it passes through the gas giant’s shadow.
On the other hand, NASA’s Juno mission is set to come to its end in 2021 when it would crash into Jupiter’s atmosphere and do the last readings. Until then, Juno must finish mapping Jupiter.
With over seven years of experience in online journalism, Vadim is passionate about everything related to science and the environment. For us, he will thus cover climate, environment, and science news, among others.