NASA’s Juno probe began orbiting Jupiter a little more than two years ago, and it has already returned heaps of valuable data that scientists are now analyzing to better understand our solar system’s largest planet.
But Juno hasn’t stopped collecting information yet, and data captured with the spacecraft’s Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument during a flyby in December suggests the presence of yet another volcano residing on the surface of one of Jupiter's several moons: Io.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM
Citing an official statement released by NASA, JIRAM located the alleged ‘hotspot’ near Io’s South pole, some 200 miles away from the last volcanic hotspot Juno discerned.
“The new Io hotspot JIRAM picked up is about 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the nearest previously mapped hotspot,” explained Juno co-investigator Alessandro Mura from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome.
“We are not ruling out movement or modification of a previously discovered hot spot, but it is difficult to imagine one could travel such a distance and still be considered the same feature.”
Researchers aren’t yet finished studying the data from this particular flyby, so further analyses could still shed light on additional clues. Future flyby missions, some closer than this one, could potentially answer even more questions pertaining to the latest discovery.
Thanks to previous missions like Voyager 1 & 2, Galileo, Cassini, and New Horizons, we know that Io is a rather volcanically-active moon. Some 150 volcanoes are known to exist there, and researchers think there could be as many as 250 more undiscovered volcanoes on Io’s surface.
With a little luck, perhaps Juno will tell us a lot more about Io that we didn’t already know. But then again, only time will tell…