NASA’s Juno spacecraft has completed two flybys of Jupiter’s moon Io.
In new images Captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, fiery volcanic activity is seen erupting on Jupiter’s moon Io.
Io is the third largest of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons and is the most volcanically active celestial body in our solar system, with approximately 400 active volcanoes. according to the agency.
Marking the second flyby of Jupiter’s scorching moon in the last 22 years, NASA’s orbiter came within about 930 miles of Io and captured twin volcanic plumes spewed into space from the moon’s surface.
Juno’s first approach took place on December 30 of last year.
The highly detailed images of Io, captured by Juno on February 3, show the moon partially illuminated against the black background of space.
“The second pass was predominantly over Io’s southern hemisphere, while previous flybys were over the northern one,” NASA said in a statement. Wednesday press release. “There is a lot to see in these photos,” the agency noted, explaining: “There is evidence of an active column, tall mountain peaks with well-defined shadows, and lava lakes, some with apparent islands.”
Io’s exact composition remains unknown to researchers; However, NASA believes that the moon is likely composed of molten sulfur or silicate rock, while its atmosphere is primarily composed of carbon dioxide.
While Io’s surface shows a hotbed of volcanic activity in the images, what scientists still don’t know is how the moon’s “volcanic engine” operates and whether the moon has a “global magma ocean” raging beneath its surface. hardened exterior.
“The twin flybys are designed to provide new insights into how Io’s volcanic engine works and whether a global magma ocean exists beneath Io’s rocky surface,” NASA said in a post on X.
Io is the innermost celestial body of Jupiter’s four massive moons, and scientists believe its gravitational position favors its powerful volcanic activity.
“Io is caught in a tug of war between Jupiter’s powerful gravity and the smaller pull of two neighboring moons, churning up its interior and creating eruptions and lava lakes that cover its surface,” NASA said.
The four Galilean moons of Jupiter were discovered by the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft launched from Earth in 2011 and entered Jupiter’s orbit in 2016. The spacecraft’s mission was initially completed in 2021, however, NASA extended the mission until September 2025 to explore more thoroughly the planet’s moons.