Did Juno? NASA Spacecraft Takes Closest Look at Io in Decades

February 25, 2024
Science Magazine

While most of us were mourning the results of the Duke-UNC basketball game on the evening of Feb. 3, scientists at NASA’s headquarters were tuned in to events happening 480 million miles away. The Juno spacecraft completed the closest flyby to Jupiter’s moon Io since 2001, capturing valuable images of the moon and its volcanic terrain.

Above: This image of Jupiter was captured by the Juno spacecraft in April 2020. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Juno mission launched in 2011 to investigate Jupiter and its moons. The mission, aptly named after the wife of the ancient Roman god Jupiter, has shaped our current understanding of the stormy planet. Juno captured images of Jupiter’s North Pole, the Great Red Spot, and even the Jovian aurorae. Atmospheric measurements from the mission have enabled scientists to characterize the gas giant’s long-lasting and violent storms. The Juno mission has also provided radiation measurements that challenge the theory that Jupiter has a solid core.

Above: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was captured by JunoCam in 2018. Image courtesy of NASA.

Since late 2019, the Juno spacecraft has also been investigating the major moons of this giant planet. Flybys of Ganymede, Europa, and Io have revealed fascinating images and new insights into the terrain and unique features of these Galilean moons. 

Most recently, Juno completed flybys within 1000 miles of Io’s surface on Dec. 30, 2023 and Feb. 3, 2024. Io is a volatile celestial body with volcanoes so powerful that their plumes can be seen from Earth.

Above: The Juno spacecraft captured this image of Io during its Feb. 3, 2024 flyby. Volcanic deposits are notable on the light side of the moon. Image courtesy of Mission Juno.

With any luck, data collected during the flybys will reveal more about the driving forces behind Io’s volcanic engine. For now, space enthusiasts can enjoy these new images of Jupiter’s most volatile moon and look forward to future discoveries from the Juno mission. 

Katherine Long

Katherine (Trinity ’24) is majoring in biology and chemistry with a concentration in cell and molecular biology. She is passionate about scientific communication and research and is excited to contribute to Vertices as a staff writer and peer reviewer. When she’s not in the lab or doing homework, she loves to paint, hike, and hang out with the Duke cat.

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