NASA's Juno probe will now investigate Jupiter's moon Io
NASA's Juno probe will now investigate Io, the third-largest Jupiter moon and the most volcanic region in the solar system. The solar-powered spacecraft, which is on its extended mission, will study Io for the next 1.5 years and will perform nine flybys around the moon, two of which will make a pass of 1,500km. Previously, Juno explored two other Jovian moons- Ganymede and Europa.
Why does this story matter?
- The Juno mission reached Jupiter after a five-year journey on July 4, 2016.
- It is the farthest solar-powered spacecraft from Earth and the first space mission to orbit a planet other than Earth from pole to pole.
- The spacecraft is expected to operate until September 2025, or until the end of its capacity.
- Some of Io's volcanoes were seen via large telescopes on Earth.
Previously, Juno captured Io from a distance of 80,000 km
Before this, Juno captured an infrared image of Io at a distance of 80,000km on July 5, 2022. According to the official blog post by NASA, Juno's flybys around Io will be used to perform the "first high-resolution monitoring campaign on the magma-encrusted moon, studying Io's volcanoes and how volcanic eruptions interact with Jupiter's powerful magnetosphere and aurora."
Ganymede and Europa have ice-covered surfaces
During Juno's flybys of Ganymede and Europa, its in-house Microwave Radiometer (MWR) provided significant information on the structure, purity, and temperature of the water-ice crust of the Jovian moons, reaching down as far as 24km below the surface. Scientists believe that these two Jovian moons are home to oceans of water underneath their frozen surfaces and thereby might have traces of life.
Io has lakes of molten silicate lava
Io, which is only slightly larger than our own Moon, has hundreds of volcanoes, some of which fountain lava dozens of km high. It also has lakes of molten silicate lava on its surface and is unlikely to host any life. ESA's upcoming Jupiter Icy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission, which will launch in 2023, will explore possible water-rich Jovian moons- Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa.