Home » Glass-smooth NASA discovers cooling lava lake on Io | Jupiter | Europa | Ganymede

Glass-smooth NASA discovers cooling lava lake on Io | Jupiter | Europa | Ganymede

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Glass-smooth NASA discovers cooling lava lake on Io | Jupiter | Europa | Ganymede

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has captured stunning images of a massive lava lake on Jupiter’s moon Io, providing scientists with new insights into the moon’s volcanic activity. The close-up images taken by Juno reveal the Loki Patera lava lake, which spans 127 miles long on Io’s surface.

Io is known for its intense volcanic activity, with hundreds of active volcanoes making it the most volcanically active world in the solar system. The spacecraft flew within 930 miles of Io’s surface in December 2023 and January 2024, conducting the closest observations of the moon to date.

Scott Bolton, principal investigator of the Juno mission, described the surface of the lava lake as smooth as glass, with specular reflections indicating the presence of molten magma. The interior of the lake is dotted with rugged rocky islands, surrounded by red-hot molten rock at the edges.

Researchers have determined that Io’s surface is smoother than Jupiter’s other moons, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. The moon’s surface is mostly covered in yellow sulfur and sulfur dioxide, with volcanic eruptions freezing immediately upon contact to form sulfur snow.

A recent study published in the journal Science highlights Io’s lack of surface contours due to constant volcanic activity. The moon’s terrain is constantly being reshaped by lava flows, erasing impact craters and creating a volcanic landscape unlike any other in the solar system.

Io’s atmosphere contains abundant sulfur and chlorine gases, suggesting a long history of volcanic activity. The moon’s underground is believed to be in a state of liquid rock, comprised of molten sulfur or silicate rock that erupts to relieve pressure.

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Juno’s ongoing mission to study Jupiter’s atmosphere and moons is providing scientists with valuable data on Io’s volcanic activity. The spacecraft will complete its 61st flyby of Jupiter on May 12, continuing to unravel the mysteries of Io’s tumultuous surface.

With revelations from Juno’s close observations, scientists are gaining a better understanding of what drives Io’s volcanic eruptions and how they shape the moon’s unique landscape. As the spacecraft continues to explore Jupiter and its moons, more discoveries await that could reshape our understanding of the solar system’s most volcanically active world.

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