NASA's Juno spacecraft to make closest flyby of Jupiter's volcanic moon, Io | Tech News

NASA's Juno spacecraft to make closest flyby of Jupiter's volcanic moon, Io

Juno’s upcoming flyby will be the closest to date, with the spacecraft reaching an altitude as low as 22,060 miles (35,500 kilometres) above Io.

| Updated on: May 17 2023, 09:37 IST
Fascinating NASA Astronomy Pictures of the Week: Dancer Galaxy, Milky Way and more
NASA's Juno Spacecraft
1/5 Spanish Dancer Galaxy: On May 8th, NASA shared a mesmerizing view of the Spanish Dancer Spiral Galaxy (NGC 1566). Within the galaxy are blue star clusters and dark cosmic dust lanes which follow two prominent spiral arms. (NASA/ESA/Hubble/Detlev Odenthal)
NASA's Juno Spacecraft
2/5 Earth casts a double shadow: On May 9th, NASA shared a snapshot of the Earth with double shadows captured during a lunar eclipse. The section in the middle is called the Belt of Venus.  (NASA/ Marcella Giulia Pace Sampieri)
NASA's Juno Spacecraft
3/5 Milky Way Galaxy visible in Egyptian Desert's skies: How does the Milky Way Galaxy get its name? Greeks said this white streak was a "river of milk". The ancient Romans called it the Via Galactica, or "road made of milk". (NASA/Amr Abdelwahab)
NASA's Juno Spacecraft
4/5 Fomalhaut's debris disk: It brings a snapshot of the dusty debris disk which surrounds Fomalhaut, which is located just 25 light-years away.  (NASA/ESA/JWST/Andras Gaspar/Alyssa Pagan)
NASA's Juno Spacecraft
5/5 Halley's Dust in the night sky: The remnants of the periodic Comet Halley's debris streams left a surreal view for all stargazers.  (Petr Horalek / Institute of Physics in Opava)
NASA's Juno Spacecraft
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NASA's Juno spacecraft is set to make a close flyby of Jupiter's volcanic moon, Io. (NASA)

NASA's Juno spacecraft is set to fly by Jupiter's volcanic moon Io followed by a close encounter with the gas giant itself. This upcoming flyby will be the closest to date, with Juno reaching an altitude of approximately 22,060 miles (35,500 kilometres) above Io. The mission, now in its third year of an extended investigation into Jupiter's interior, will also investigate the ring system that houses some of the gas giant's inner moons.

Juno has already completed 50 flybys of Jupiter and has collected valuable data during its close encounters with three of the four Galilean moons: Europa, Ganymede, and Io. Among these moons, Io stands out as the most volcanic celestial body in our solar system. Observing Io over multiple passes allows scientists to monitor the variations in its volcanoes, such as eruption frequency, brightness, temperature, grouping, and changes in lava flow patterns.

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Io, slightly larger than Earth's moon, experiences continuous gravitational forces from both Jupiter and its neighbouring moons, resulting in constant stretching and squeezing. These actions contribute to the formation of the lava eruptions observed on Io's surface.

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Although Juno was primarily designed to study Jupiter, its various sensors, including JunoCam (visible light imagery), JIRAM (Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper), SRU (Stellar Reference Unit), and MWR (Microwave Radiometer), have provided a wealth of data on Jupiter's moons. These instruments will be employed to study Io's volcanoes and the interactions between volcanic eruptions, Jupiter's powerful magnetosphere, and its auroras.

Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator, expressed enthusiasm for the upcoming flybys, stating, "We are entering another amazing part of Juno's mission as we get closer and closer to Io with successive orbits." The spacecraft's 51st orbit will offer the closest look yet at this intriguing moon.

Subsequent flybys in July and October will bring Juno even closer, leading up to twin encounters in December of this year and February of next year, where Juno will fly within 1,500 kilometres of Io's surface. Each flyby promises remarkable views of Io's volcanic activity, with scientists eagerly anticipating the exceptional data these missions will provide.

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First Published Date: 17 May, 09:36 IST