NASA’s Juno probe spies plumes over lava lakes on Jupiter

picture: Image processing by Andrea Locke (CC BY)

It’s not a large moon compared to some of its neighbors, but Jupiter’s moon Io is very active, with volcanoes spewing hundreds of lava columns. tens of miles Above its surface, according to NASA. Infrared technology aboard the space agency’s Juno probe mapped two such eruptions in February, bringing back valuable data about mysterious events beneath Io’s surface. The researchers shared their views on this issue in paper Published last week.

From a distance of about 2,400 miles, the probe’s JIRAM (Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper) instrument “revealed that Io’s entire surface is covered in lakes of lava that lie in caldera-like features,” explained Alessandro Moura, one of the Juno project’s co-investigators from the National Institute of Astrophysics. in Rome. On Earth, a caldera is a crater formed by the collapse of a volcano. Io is a quarter the size of Earth in diameter, and slightly larger than Earth’s moon.

“In the area of ​​Io’s surface where we have the most complete data, we estimate that about 3 percent of it is covered by one of these magma lakes,” Mora said. Juno’s JIRAM instrument came from the Italian space agency Agenzia Spaziale Italiana.

Researchers model lava lake movement on Io

According to Mora, lead author of the Io paper, the probe’s flybys reveal the most common type of volcanic activity on Jupiter’s hottest moon — “massive lava lakes where magma rises and falls.”

“The lava crust is forced to collapse onto the walls of the lake, forming the typical lava ring we see in Hawaiian lava lakes. The walls are likely hundreds of meters high, which explains why the magma spill is generally not observed,” he added.

Researchers are still studying data collected by Juno-Io flybys, which occurred in February 2024 and December 2023.

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