Island in the lava lake: Juno probe revealed the secrets of Io

NASA scientists have published two computer animations based on data collected by the Juno mission. They show some of the most amazing sights of the volcanic moon. 

Volcano moon

Io is the most geologically active world in the Solar System. There are hundreds of active volcanoes on the surface of this moon. They are continuously erupting, altering its landscape. 

A photo of Io taken by the Juno probe. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Perry

This incredible activity is due to a combination of tidal interactions between Io and Jupiter, as well as its other large moons, Europa and Ganymede. Incessant eruptions constantly “reshape” the Io map and paint its surface in various shades of yellow, white, red, black and green.

In December 2023 and February 2024, the Juno spacecraft made two record-breaking close flights of Io. The Earth messenger passed at a distance of only 1,500 km from its surface, taking the first high-quality images of the moon’s northern hemisphere. Mission specialists used this data to create models of some of Io’s most amazing landmarks.

Lava lakes and unusual mountains

The first animation shows Loki Patera, a 200-kilometer volcanic depression located near Io’s equator. It is filled with liquid. But this is not water, as on our Earth, and not liquid methane, as on Titan. Io’s lakes are filled with lava, supplied in abundance by its volcanoes.

The most amazing thing is that, according to Juno, there is a full-fledged island in Loki Patera. Most likely, similar islands are located in other lava lakes of Io.

The second animation of Juno demonstrates an equally bizarre object — a formation of a very unusual shape. The mission’s specialists unofficially nicknamed it “Steeple Mountain”. Its origin is undoubtedly also connected with volcanic processes on the surface of Io, but the exact mechanism of formation remains in question.

According to

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