NASA Juno Data Indicate Another Possible Volcano on Jupiter Moon Io

This annotated image highlights the location of the new heat source close to the south pole of Io. The image was generated from data collected on Dec. 16, 2017, by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard NASA’s Juno mission when the spacecraft was about 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers) from the Jovian moon. The scale to the right of image depicts of the range of temperatures displayed in the infrared image. Higher recorded temperatures are characterized in brighter colors – lower temperatures in darker colors. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA JPL/Caltech PR) — Data collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft using its Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument point to a new heat source close to the south pole of Io that could indicate a previously undiscovered volcano on the small moon of Jupiter. The infrared data were collected on Dec. 16, 2017, when Juno was about 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers) away from the moon.

“The new Io hotspot JIRAM picked up is about 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the nearest previously mapped hotspot,” said Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome. “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.”

The Juno team will continue to evaluate data collected on the Dec. 16 flyby, as well as JIRAM data that will be collected during future (and even closer) 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 146 million miles (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 Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops — as close as about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers). 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.

JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate. The Italian Space Agency (ASI), contributed two instruments, a Ka-band frequency translator (KaT) and the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM). Lockheed Martin Space, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California.

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  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    There is NOTHING like having a orbiter or two on hand to keep a proper eye on things. After the Galileo antenna malfunction, it was proposed that we send modified geo-sync satellites to all the planets and then send a serial stream of smaller probes with diminutive high gain communications that only need to relay to the communications gateway for its target planet. One of these days we’ll take this infrastructure approach beyond Earth and Mars.

  • Mike Richards

    It’d be fantastic to have a long-term look at changes on Io – but I wonder how long a satellite could last in that high-radiation environment? JUNO’s sensors were going to take a clobbering just dipping in and out of Jupiter’s radiation belts.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Jupiter is a highly toxic environment, but you plan for that. We have been operating infra-red imaging platforms in GEO for decades now, and the long cruise periods of Galileo, Cassini, and New Horizons did not kill those CCDs. For Jupiter what you would want for a long term imaging platform is more aperture and focal length on your telescope and more propellant so you can raise your peri-Jove and avoid having to go so deep into the radiation belts.