Large Volcanic Outburst Discovered on Jupiter’s Moon Io

PSI's Io Input/Output Observatory Discovers a Large Volcanic Burst on Jupiter's Moon Io

IoIO image of the exploding Jovian Sodium Nebula Credit: Jeff Morgenthaler, PSI.

A large volcanic outburst was discovered on Jupiter’s moon Io by Jeff Morgenthaler of the Planetary Sciences Institute using PSI’s Io Input/Output (IoIO) observatory.

PSI Senior Scientist Morgenthaler has been using IoIO, located near Benson, Arizona, to monitor Volcanic activity on Io since 2017. The observations they show some kind of outburst almost every year, but the biggest one so far was seen in the fall of 2022.

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

IoIO uses a coronagraphic technique that dims the light coming from Jupiter to allow imaging of faint gases near the very bright planet. A clearance 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-shaped structure surrounding Jupiter and is called the Io plasma toroid, was interestingly not as bright in this outburst as previously thought. saw previously. “This could tell us something about the composition of the volcanic activity that produced the outburst, or it could tell us that the toroid is more efficient at getting rid of material when more material is thrown at it,” Morgenthaler said.

Credit: Institute of Planetary Sciences

The observations have profound implications for NASA’s Juno mission, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016. Juno flew by Europa during the outburst and is gradually approaching Io for a close flyby in December 2023. Several of Juno’s instruments are sensitive to changes in the plasma environment around Jupiter and Io that can be directly attributed 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.

PSI's Io Input/Output Observatory Discovers a Large Volcanic Burst on Jupiter's Moon Io

Time history of the brightness of the Jovian Sodium Nebula at three different distances from Jupiter (top) and Io’s plasma torus (bottom), showing several modest outbursts and one big outburst in fall 2022. Credit: Jeff Morgenthaler, PSI .

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

Having one or more copies of IoIO running elsewhere would be very helpful in avoiding weather gaps and could potentially provide more nightly weather coverage of Io’s highly dynamic plasma torus and Jupiter’s sodium nebula. “It would be great to see another IoIO come online before Juno reaches Jupiter next December,” Morgenthaler said.

PSI's Io Input/Output Observatory Discovers a Large Volcanic Burst on Jupiter's Moon Io

IoIO time sequence of individually ionized sulfur in Io’s plasma torus showing how the structure rotates with Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field which, like Earth’s, is not perfectly aligned with the planet’s axis of rotation. Credit: Jeff Morgenthaler, ISP.

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

Citation: Large Volcanic Outburst Discovered on Jupiter’s Moon Io (January 3, 2023) Accessed January 3, 2023 at html

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