NASA’s Juno mission captured breathtaking images of Jupiter’s third-largest moon, lo, as it passed within 930 miles of the volcanic celestial body. The spacecraft, now in its third year of the mission, has been chronicling Jupiter and its officially recognized moons. The stunning images revealed active volcanoes on lo, blasting plumes of debris into its thin sulfur dioxide atmosphere.
The images of lo’s heavily cratered surface, with hundreds of volcanoes and lava lakes, were published in Sky & Telescope. Juno had previously made a close approach to lo in December, and its latest pass captured the first-ever images of the moon’s north and south poles.
Principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio stated that the Juno science team is studying how Io’s volcanoes vary, looking at their frequency of eruption and the brightness and heat they emit. They are also observing how Io’s activity is connected to the flow of charged particles in Jupiter’s magnetosphere and the importance of tidal forces from Jupiter.
Lo is slightly larger than Earth’s moon and features surface temperatures of negative 202 degrees. It has interior volcanoes that can exceed 3,000 degrees, spewing charged particles into Io’s plasma torus. Although the spacecraft’s pass wasn’t the closest ever to lo, the Galileo mission reportedly got within 112 miles of the moon in 2001.