Scientists have discovered a volcano close to the south pole of Jupiter’s moon Io, using data collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. The infrared data were collected in December last year, when Juno was about 470,000 kilometres away from the moon, using its Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument.
“The new Io hotspot JIRAM picked up is about 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the nearest previously mapped hotspot,” said Alessandro Mura, from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy. “We are not ruling out movement or modification of a previously discovered hot spot, but it is difficult to imagine one could travel such a distance and still be considered the same feature,” said Mura. The team will continue to evaluate data collected on the December 16 flyby, as well as JIRAM data that will be collected during future flybys of Io.
Past NASA missions of exploration that have visited the Jovian system (Voyagers 1 and 2, Galileo, Cassini and New Horizons), along with ground-based observations, have located over 150 active volcanoes on Io so far. Scientists estimate that about another 250 or so are waiting to be discovered. Juno has logged nearly 235 million kilometers since entering Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016. Juno’s 13th science pass will be on July 16.
Juno launched on August 5, 2011, from the US. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops – as close as about 3,400 kilometres. During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.