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NASA’s Juno spacecraft captures Jupiter’s moon Io as it makes closest-ever approach

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft made its closest-ever approach to Jupiter’s moon Io on 30 December. According to NASA, its Juno Mission achieved its closest-ever proximity to Jupiter’s moon Io, reaching an altitude of approximately 930 miles (1,500 km) above the solar system’s most volcanic celestial body, the closest flyby any spacecraft has made in over 20 years. The space agency added that the Juno captured moon Io’s molten surface.

NASA also added that a second ultra-close flyby of Io is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2024 wherein Juno will again come within about 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) of the surface.

Taking to X, NASA wrote, “On Dec. 30, our #JunoMission made its closest-ever approach to Jupiter’s moon Io, soaring about 930 miles (1,500 km) above the solar system’s most volcanic world. Juno captured Io’s molten surface and will return for another look in February.”

“By combining data from this flyby with our previous observations, the Juno science team is studying how Io’s volcanoes vary,” said Juno’s principal investigator, Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas said as reported by NASA. He added that the focus is “looking for how often they erupt, how bright and hot they are, how the shape of the lava flow changes, and how Io’s activity is connected to the flow of charged particles in Jupiter’s magnetosphere.”

After taking the February’s close flyby, Bolton added with the two Juno will investigate source of Io’s massive volcanic activity. “With our pair of close flybys in December and February, Juno will investigate the source of Io’s massive volcanic activity, whether a magma ocean exists underneath its crust, and the importance of tidal forces from Jupiter, which are relentlessly squeezing this tortured moon,” he said as reported by NASA.

 

View Full Image

This black-and-white view was taken at an altitude of about 1,500 miles (2,500 kilometers) (Source: NASA)

The space agency also added that the spacecraft will conduct a series of occultation tests beginning in April 2024 to investigate Jupiter’s upper atmospheric composition using Juno’s Gravity Science experiment. This information is crucial for understanding the planet’s shape and internal structure.

About Juno Mission

Juno has monitored Io from afar since the spacecraft arrived at Jupiter in 2016. Since its arrival, the Juno spacecraft has been probing beneath the dense, forbidding clouds encircling the giant planet, making it the first orbiter to peer so closely. Additionally, the mission also seeks answers about the origin, evolution of the planet, the solar system, and other massive planets in space.

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Published: 03 Jan 2024, 10:02 AM IST

https://www.livemint.com/science/nasas-juno-spacecraft-captures-jupiters-moon-io-as-it-makes-closest-ever-approach-11704252582948.html

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