The Juno probe approached the most volcanically active body in the solar system

Recently, NASA's Juno probe made a record approach to Io, a satellite of Jupiter and the most volcanically active celestial body in the solar system.. The probe flew just 1,500 km from the satellite, or ten times closer than before. During the approach, Juno took many pictures with its three onboard cameras and showed the world of Io as we have never seen it before.

A fragment of Io's surface during a flyby by the Juno probe on December 30, 2024 (click to enlarge). Image source: NASA

Unlike Jupiter's other moons, Io is a rocky and dry world.. The gas giant's other moons are covered in ice sheets and appear to hide layers of water beneath them.. There is nothing like this on Io, except for hundreds of active volcanoes. Its close proximity to Jupiter causes gravitational disturbances in Io's crust and heats it up.. Astronomers and planetary scientists are interested in studying this alien world, unique in its combination of rare factors.

Images taken during a flyby of Io on December 30 were published by NASA over the weekend.. Today these are some of the clearest views of this “hellish” world. The new data will help planetary scientists determine how often these volcanoes erupt and how this activity relates to Jupiter's magnetosphere.

So far, Juno has observed Io mostly from afar, as the spacecraft has made 56 flybys of Jupiter, studying the gas giant in much more detail than ever before.. Since its arrival in the gas giant system in July 2016, Juno has approached Io at a distance of several thousand kilometers (the last flyby was 11 thousand).. km). The probe will make another close flyby of Io on February 3, 2024, which will allow scientists to compare changes on the moon's surface over a short period of time.

Working in the Jupiter system, the probe was exposed to harsh radiation emanating from the planet.. This could not but affect the operation of equipment and on-board cameras. Recently, the cumulative effect of this harmful influence has begun to appear.. The dynamic range of camera sensitivity has decreased, and there is more interference. Engineers are trying to fix the problems, but there is a limit to everything.

Without waiting for the final wear and tear of the equipment, the probe will be destroyed by falling to Jupiter in September 2025. No one will dare to drop Juno on one of Jupiter’s moons. The probe could potentially carry microbial life from Earth. It would be unwise to infect an alien world with it, although the likelihood of this is close to zero. The probe was planned to be destroyed back in 2018, but it turned out to be too tenacious and, as we see, still brings scientists a lot of new information.