Large eruption on Io, the most volcanic body in the Solar System

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A large volcanic eruption has been discovered on Jupiter’s moon Io using the Io Input/Output (IoIO) observatory from PSI (Planetary Science Institute).

PSI Principal Scientist Jeff Morgenthaler has been using IoIO, located in Arizona, to monitor volcanic activity on Io since 2017. Observations show some form of outburst almost every year, but the largest so far was observed in the fall of 2022.

Io is the innermost of Jupiter’s four large moons and It is the most volcanic body in the Solar System thanks to the tidal stresses it feels from Jupiter and two of its other large satellites, Europa and Ganymede.

IoIO uses a coronagraphic technique that dims the light from Jupiter to allow imaging of the faint gases near the bright planet. The glow of two of these gases, sodium and ionized sulfur, began between July and September 2022 and lasted until December 2022.

Ionized sulfur, which forms a donut-like structure surrounding Jupiter and is called the plasma torus of Io, interestingly it was not as bright in this burst as previously seen. “This could be telling us something about the composition of the volcanic activity that produced the outburst, or it could be telling us that the torus is more efficient at dumping material when more material is thrown into it,” Morgenthaler said. it’s a statement.

The observations have profound implications for NASA’s Juno mission, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016. Juno flew past Europa during the outburst and is gradually approaching Io for a close flyby in December 2023. Several of Juno’s instruments they are sensitive to changes in the plasma environment around Jupiter and Io that can be traced directly to the type of volcanic activity observed by IoIO. “Juno’s measurements can tell us if this volcanic outburst had a different composition than previous ones,” Morgenthaler said.

“One of the exciting things about these observations is that they can be reproduced by almost any small university or ambitious amateur astronomer,” Morgenthaler said. “Almost all of the parts used to build IoIO are readily available at a high-end camera store or telescope store.”

Having one or more copies of IoIO running in another location would be very helpful in avoiding weather gaps and could potentially provide more coverage time each night of Io’s highly dynamic plasma torus from Jupiter and the Sodium Nebula.

In addition to observing the Jovian Sodium Nebula, IoIO also observes Mercury’s sodium tail, bright comets, and transiting extrasolar planets.

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