Radio telescopes study Jupiter and Io

Using the capabilities of the VLA (Very Large Array) and ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) radio telescopes, two international teams of researchers studied the atmosphere of Jupiter and Io volcanoes. Their results are contained in recently published scientific articles.

An image of the surface of Jupiter obtained by the VLA radio telescope using data collected by the Juno probe. Source: Moeckel, et al., Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Complexes like VLA and ALMA are usually used to observe distant objects located outside the Milky Way. However, they are also valuable tools for studying the objects of our Solar System. For example, Jupiter.

The largest planet in the Solar System has a complex, dynamic and rapidly changing atmosphere. To study it at various depths, the first team of researchers conducted complex observations using the VLA and the Juno probe in orbit around Jupiter. As a result, scientists were able to obtain high-resolution radio images of the planet and map the distribution of ammonia at different altitudes. In turn, this helped to determine the vertical structure of the planet’s atmosphere.

Volcanic Io, which surface is regularly reshaped during endless eruptions, is also of great scientific interest. It is believed that this activity is caused by its powerful tidal interactions with Jupiter. Thanks to volcanoes, the moon even has a peculiar atmosphere, which mainly consists of sulfur oxide (SO2).

During the observations made using the ALMA complex, scientists also managed to detect traces of gas impurities of sodium chloride (NaCl) and potassium chloride (KCl) in the atmosphere of Io. These compounds are largely limited in size and are found at high temperatures, which indicates that their source is also volcanic activity. The researchers also found out that they are not in the places where SO2 is emitted. This suggests that there may be differences in subsurface magma or in eruption processes between volcanoes emitting SO2 and volcanoes emitting NaCl and KCl.

Recall that recently the ALMA radio telescope complex was subjected to a hacker attack, which led to the suspension of its activities.

According to

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