NASA to visit the most volcanic world in the solar system

NASA spacecraft are preparing for a series of close encounters with the most volcanic place in the solar system. The Juno spacecraft will fly by Jupiter’s moon Io on Thursday, December 15.

The maneuver will be one of nine that Juno will fly over Io over the next year and a half. Two of those encounters were just 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) from the lunar surface.

Juno captured this glowing infrared view of Io on July 5 from 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers) away. The brightest points in this image correspond to the hottest temperatures on Io, home to hundreds of volcanoes — some of which can spew fountains of lava tens of miles high.

Scientists will use Juno’s observations of Io to learn more about the network of volcanoes and how its eruptions interact with Jupiter. The Moon is constantly tugged by Jupiter’s enormous gravitational pull.

“The team is very excited about Juno’s extended mission, which includes studying Jupiter’s moons. With each close flyby, we are able to gain a wealth of new information,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Francisco. Antonio, in a statement.

“The Juno sensors are designed to study Jupiter, but we’re very excited about their ability to do double duty by observing Jupiter’s moons.”

The spacecraft recently snapped a new image of Jupiter’s northernmost cyclone on September 29. Jupiter’s atmosphere is dominated by hundreds of cyclones, many clustered at the planet’s poles.

The Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016 to discover more details about the giant planet and to focus on flybys of Jupiter’s moons in an extended part of its mission, which began last year and is expected to last By the end of 2025.

Juno flew by Jupiter’s moon Ganymede in 2021, followed by a flyby of Europa earlier this year. The spacecraft used its instruments to peer beneath the icy shells of both moons and collect data on Europa’s interior, where an Aral Sea is believed to exist.

The icy shell that makes up Europa’s surface is between 10 and 15 miles (16 and 24 kilometers) thick, and the ocean on which it probably rests is estimated to be 40 to 100 miles (64 to 161 kilometers) deep.

Data and images captured by Juno may help inform two separate missions to Jupiter’s moons over the next two years: the European Space Agency’s Jupiter ICy moon Explorer and NASA’s Europa Clipper mission.

The first, expected to launch in April 2023, will spend three years exploring Jupiter and its three icy moons in depth — Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. All three moons are thought to have oceans beneath their icy crusts, and scientists wanted to explore whether Ganymede’s oceans might be habitable.

Europa Clipper will launch in 2024 and perform a dedicated series of 50 orbits of the Moon upon arrival in 2030. Eventually transitioning from an altitude of 1,700 miles (2,736 kilometers) to just 16 miles (26 kilometers) above the lunar surface, Europa Clipper may be able to help scientists determine whether an inner ocean really exists there, and whether the moon could support life.

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