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Mesmerizing new NASA image shows the lava on one of Jupiter’s moons that helps form the massive planet’s auroras

NASA’s Juno mission captured this infrared view of Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io on July 5, 2022, when the spacecraft was about 50,000 miles away.NASA’s Juno mission captured an infrared view of Io in July.


  • NASA’s Juno spacecraft snapped an infrared image of Jupiter’s moon Io.
  • Io is our solar system’s most volcanically-active body, and its surface is peppered with lava lakes.
  • Juno should fly by the Jovian moon again on December 15, in the first of nine flybys.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured an infrared image of Jupiter’s moon Io from 50,000 miles away.

In the image, taken on July 5 and released on Wednesday, you can see the shapes of lava flows and lava lakes as bright red spots.

“You can see volcanic hotspots. We’ve been able to monitor over the course of the primary mission — over 30 orbits — how this changes and evolves,” Scott Bolton, principal investigator for NASA’s Juno spacecraft, said in a press event at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting on Wednesday.

Io is home to hundreds of volcanoes, NASA has found. Surprisingly, scientists found more volcanic spots in the polar region than in the planet’s equatorial region, Bolton said.

The space probe Juno has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016. After studying the gas giant, Juno flew by Jupiter’s moon Ganymede in 2021 and by Europa earlier this year.

The spacecraft is scheduled to explore Io, which NASA says is the “the most volcanic place in the solar system,” again on December 15. It’s the first of nine flybys Juno has planned over the next year and a half.

Scientists hope to gather more data on the moon’s volcanoes and its magnetism — which play a “tug of war” to form Jupiter’s auroras — as they fly by.

“As we watch the volcanoes change and get active and less active, they’re driving Jupiter’s gigantic monster magnetosphere,” Bolton said on Wednesday.

Auroras are colorful displays of light that are not unique to Earth. Jupiter has the brightest auroras in the solar system, according to NASA.

On both Earth and Jupiter, auroras occur when charged particles, such as protons or electrons, interact with the magnetic field — known as the magnetosphere — that surrounds a planet. Jupiter’s magnetic field is about 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s.

The data and insights Juno gleans could help inform future missions to study Jupiter’s moons, like NASA’s Clipper mission, which will investigate whether Europa could support life.

Read the original article on Business Insider