Juno captures stunning images of Jupiter’s moon Io during its first closest flyby

NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured stunning images of Jupiter’s moon Io during its first closest flyby on Saturday, December 30, 2023.

On this day Juno spacecraft made its first closest approach to Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io, flying only about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) above the volcanic world. It is Juno’s 57th orbit around Jupiter.

Jupiter’s moon Io as seen from Juno spacecraft on December 30, 2023
Jupiter’s moon Io as seen from Juno spacecraft on December 30, 2023. (Image credit: NASA/SwRI/Image processed by Kevin M. Gill)

It is the closest flyby of Jupiter’s moon Io that any spacecraft has made since October 15, 2001. NASA’s Galileo spacecraft made the closest flyby of Jupiter’s moon Io ever. The spacecraft passed within 181 kilometers (112 miles) from Io’s south pole on October 15, 2001.

Io is the third-largest moon of the giant planet Jupiter, and it is the most volcanically active world in our solar system. Io contains hundreds of volcanoes, and they are so powerful that they can be seen even from Earth through large telescopes.

Juno’s principal investigator, Scott Bolton, said in a statement prior to the flyby, “By combining data from this flyby with our previous observations, the Juno science team is studying how Io’s volcanoes vary.”

“We are 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.”

Juno is an orbiter-type spacecraft, which means it orbits Jupiter and collects scientific data. The spacecraft launched on August 5, 2011, arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016, and completed its primary mission in July 2021.

Currently, the spacecraft is on its extended mission, and it will continue its investigation of the solar system’s largest planet through September 2025, or until the spacecraft’s end of life.

The next closest flyby of Io is scheduled for February 3, 2024, in which Juno will again come within about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) of the surface.

Scott Bolton also said in another statement, “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.”

NASA shared some of the stunning images of Jupiter’s moon Io via X (former Twitter). These images were captured by Juno spacecraft during its closest approach to Jupiter’s moon, Io, on December 30, 2023.

For all the raw images of Jupiter’s moon Io captured by Juno spacecraft, visit the Juno mission website.

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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