See a stunning new image of Jupiter’s volcanic moon from Earth

The Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham in Arizona captured the highest resolution image ever of Earth Io, the most volcanic world in the Solar System.

About the same diameter as Earth’s Moon, the innermost of Jupiter’s four giant moons is covered in volcanoes, some of which spew sulfur plumes hundreds of miles into space.

It’s been taken by spacecraft—notably NASA’s Juno in recent months—but this is the best image ever taken by an instrument from Earth.

Frictional heat

Io is volcanic due to the gravitational pull of Jupiter and its three other largest moons – Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – causing the moon to be pulled in different directions during its orbit. The accumulation of heat due to friction in its interior causes constant and widespread volcanic activity. Scientists think there is an ocean of magma beneath its rocky surface.

Io, which orbits Jupiter every 42 hours, was imaged by the only binocular telescope of its kind. Equipped with two 27-foot mirrors placed side by side, ir could detect features as large as 50 miles in diameter, a spatial resolution previously only achievable with spacecraft orbiting the giant planet.

Spitting lava

Posted this week in Geophysical Research Lettersthe images captured three of Io’s most prominent features—Pele volcano (below and right of the Moon’s center), the white ring around Pillan Patera volcano (right of Pele), and Io’s largest volcano, Loki Patera (left).

The image is so detailed that researchers were able to spot a change on Io’s surface where Pillan Patera spews lava onto Pele’s environment. «We interpret the changes to be dark lava deposits and white sulfur dioxide deposits originating from the Pillan Patera eruption that partially cover Pele’s red, sulfur-rich sediment plume,» said Ashley Davies, co-author of the paper and principal scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. drive.

So far, it has been shown that such events are impossible to imagine from Earth. The breakthrough is SHARK-VIS, a new high-contrast optical imaging instrument built into the telescope, which already has a state-of-the-art adaptive optics system to compensate for blur caused by turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Last October, during its 55th close flyby of the planet, Juno came within 7,270 miles (11,700 kilometers) of Io, making it the closest pass since NASA’s Galileo spacecraft imaged the volcanic moon in October 2001.

During its next close pass in December, it came just 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) from the Moon’s surface. In April of this year, it took multiple images (above) from 10,250 miles (16,500 kilometers) above Ia’s surface.

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