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NASA embarks on a daring mission to explore the most volcanic world in our solar system

By: April Carson



NASA's Juno spacecraft will embark on its first flyby of Jupiter's most volcanic moon, Io, Today. This marks the beginning of a series of close encounters with this fiery satellite as it zooms through our solar system.


During the next eighteen months, Juno will be carrying out nine flybys of Io, two of which are at a mere distance of 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) from its surface. This remarkable maneuver is certain to bring us closer to uncovering more secrets about this fascinating moon.


The flybys will provide a wealth of data about Io's composition, geology, and atmosphere. Juno's high-resolution cameras and spectrometers will be able to study the moon in unprecedented detail, giving us valuable insights into its volcanic nature.


On July 5, Juno showed an awe-inspiring infrared view of Io from a distance of 50,000 miles (80,000 kilometers). The hottest temperatures on this satellite are revealed by the brightest splotches in the image. Inhabited by hundreds of volcanoes - some able to produce lava fountains reaching dozens of miles high - Io is truly incredible.


By taking advantage of Juno's observations, scientists will be able to gain a better understanding of Io's network of volcanoes and their relationship with Jupiter. The immense gravitational force emitted by the planet relentlessly pulls on the small moon, creating an interesting interaction for researchers to explore.


In addition to collecting data about the planet's activity, Juno is also taking pictures of Io from various angles as it orbits Jupiter. Photos taken from different heights allow scientists to create a 3D map of Io's surface and get more detailed information about its topography.


Scott Bolton, principal investigator of the Juno mission at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio stated with delight that “the team is thrilled to have the privilege of studying Jupiter's moons as part of our extended mission”. Every close encounter has provided us unprecedented amounts of information and data.


The Juno sensors were intended to investigate Jupiter, but we have been amazed by their remarkable ability to also observe the moons around it.


Last week, the spacecraft was able to take a captivating photo of Jupiter's most northern cyclone. In reality, there are hundreds of these storms that coalesce near the planet's poles and shape its dynamic atmosphere.


Our mission is to boldly explore Io, the most volcanic world in our solar system. It's a fascinating place that has captivated us for decades. For example, its dense atmosphere consists of sulfur dioxide which gives the moon its orange hue.


Since 2016, the Juno spacecraft has been orbiting Jupiter to uncover more interesting facts about the expansive planet. Now on its extended mission phase which began last year and is expected to continue until 2025, it can perform flybys of all four of Jupiter's moons for a closer inspection.


In 2021, NASA's Juno spacecraft flew by Jupiter’s moon Ganymede and followed up with Europa earlier this year. Utilizing its instruments, the craft was able to study under the frozen surface of both satellites and acquire information about what is believed to be a salty ocean hidden inside Europa.


A remarkable ice crust covering Europa's exterior lies between 10-15 miles (16-24 kilometers) deep, while the probable ocean lying beneath is estimated to be 40-100 miles (64-161 kilometers).


The information and pictures gathered by Juno will be instrumental in guiding two ambitious space missions to Jupiter's moons over the next few years: The European Space Agency's JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission, as well as NASA’s Europa Clipper project.


Scheduled for a launch in April 2023, the first spacecraft will embark on an ambitious mission of three years to delve deep into Jupiter and its trio of icy moons - Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. It is thought that all these satellites have oceans tucked under their frozen layers; thereby, scientists are eager to determine if Ganymede possesses habitable conditions underwater.


Scheduled for launch in 2024, Europa Clipper is set to embark on an ambitious mission of fifty flybys around the moon and will arrive at its destination by 2030. As it descends from a height of 1,700 miles (2,736 kilometers) down to just 16 miles (26 kilometers) above the lunar surface, this remarkable spacecraft may be able to provide scientists with answers about whether life exists or could exist underneath Europa's icy exterior.


Equipped with advanced instruments, the Europa Clipper will be able to detect chemical evidence of habitability and may even find plumes that shoot out from the moon's interior. The spacecraft is also designed for high-resolution imaging of Ganymede's surface to provide detailed information about its geology, as well as its potential sites for future human exploration. With an ambitious mission like this, NASA is sure to unlock the secrets of Europa and Ganymede, two of our solar system's most mysterious and fascinating moons.












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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com


To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav


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