Juno Spacecraft to Make History’s Closest Flyby of Jupiter’s Moon Io: A Journey to the Heart of a Volcanic World

Stargazer Daily
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credit: NASA

The spacecraft has completed 56 orbital passes around Jupiter, throughout which it has actually recorded thorough photos and data of three of the planet’s biggest moons, including their close approaches.

On December 30th, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will certainly execute the nearest flyby of Jupiter’s moon Io that any other spacecraft has actually done in greater than 20 years. This encounter will bring Juno within approximately 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) from the surface area of Io, which is known to be one of the most volcanic celestial body in our solar system. Because of this, Juno’s tools are anticipated to accumulate an abundant amount of data.

Juno’s principal investigator, Scott Bolton from the Southwest Research Study Institute in San Antonio, Texas, specified that the Juno scientific research group is assessing the adjustments in Io’s volcanoes by combining data from the recent flyby with their previous monitorings. The team aims to figure out the regularity of eruptions, the intensity and temperature of the volcanoes, the changes in the lava flow’s form, and the connection in between Io’s activity and the movement of charged particles in Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

On February 3, 2024, Juno is set to make its second exceptionally close strategy to Io, with the spacecraft expected to pass within a simple 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) of the moon’s surface.

The spacecraft has actually been observing Io’s volcanic task from numerous distances, covering from around 6,830 miles (11,000 kilometers) to over 62,100 miles (100,000 kilometers), and has actually used the first glimpses of the moon’s north and southern poles. In addition, the spacecraft has actually implemented close flybys of Jupiter’s frozen moons, Ganymede and Europa.

Bolton stated that Juno will discover the source of Io’s substantial volcanic actions, consisting of the existence of a feasible molten rock sea below its surface and the relevance of Jupiter’s gravitational forces, which incessantly exert pressure on this distressed moon.

Entering its 3rd year of a extended mission dedicated to discovering the source of Jupiter’s existence, the spacecraft, which relies upon solar energy, will additionally venture right into the ring system which contains a number of the gas giant’s inner moons.

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Throughout the Io flyby, all three video cameras aboard Juno will certainly be in operation. The Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapmaker (JIRAM), which records pictures utilizing infrared innovation, will certainly collect the thermal patterns given off by volcanoes and calderas across the moon’s outside. The objective’s Outstanding Reference System, a star camera made use of for navigation and scientific functions, will acquire one of the most thorough image of the surface up until now. Additionally, the JunoCam imager will certainly catch visible-light shade pictures.

JunoCam was positioned on the spacecraft to include the general public and was produced to function for a maximum of 8 trips around Jupiter. The approaching orbit around Jupiter, referred to as the 57th for Juno, will certainly include a flyby of Io, subjecting the spacecraft and electronic cameras to one of the toughest radiation atmospheres in the solar system.

The accumulated impact of radiation on JunoCam has become visible over the past few orbits, according to Ed Hirst, job supervisor of Juno at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Research laboratory in Southern The Golden State. The most current photos caught by the imager reveal a decrease in its capacity to catch a variety of colors and the visibility of striped patterns, which are indicative of radiation damages. The engineering team has been functioning diligently to discover methods to reduce the damage and keep the imager operational.

To even more enhance its expedition of Jupiter’s moons, the Juno team has changed the spacecraft’s trajectory to consist of seven extra flybys of Io, bringing the overall variety of flybys to 18. Adhering to a close encounter with Io on February 3, the spacecraft will certainly now go by the moon every other orbit, with each succeeding flyby happening at a considerably higher range. The initial of these flybys will certainly take place at an elevation of approximately 10,250 miles (16,500 kilometers), while the last one will certainly happen at a height of regarding 71,450 miles (115,000 kilometers).

Throughout the Dec. 30 experience, Io’s gravitational force will trigger Juno’s orbit around Jupiter to lower from 38 days to 35 days. After the Feb. 3 encounter, Juno’s orbit will additionally decrease to 33 days.

As Juno methods Jupiter, the planet’s setting will temporarily block the sunshine that powers the spacecraft, causing a brief period of darkness lasting around 5 minutes. This occasion, called perijove, will certainly happen when Juno goes to its closest indicate Jupiter. Although this is the very first time given that its 2013 flyby of Earth that Juno has come across darkness, it will certainly not substantially influence the spacecraft’s procedures. Nonetheless, similar solar eclipses will certainly happen during future close flybys of Jupiter, which are scheduled to proceed until completion of the spacecraft’s extensive goal in 2025.

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