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Lake Loki Patera on Io, Jupiter's moon. The animation shows what it may look like up close

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The Juno spacecraft, thanks to its record-breaking flyby of Io, one of Jupiter's moons, has shed new light on the lava lake on its surface. Scientists have created an animation that shows what it might look like up close.

In December 2023 and January 2024, NASA's Juno spacecraft made extremely close flybys of Io, Jupiter's third largest moon. It approached it to a distance of 1,500 kilometers, allowing for the most detailed look at this celestial body ever. Io is characterized by strong volcanic activity. There are hundreds of craters on the moon's surface, which can be clearly seen in the photos provided.

“Io is just full of volcanoes, and we caught some of them in action,” Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator, said on Wednesday. However, the press conference was about another discovery. Thanks to its close approach to the moon, the probe provided data about the lava lake on its surface. Scientists have been studying them for decades.

Lava lake close up

Loki Patera, as the lake is called, stretches for 200 kilometers. Based on the data collected by the JunoCam camera, an animation was created that shows what the reservoir looks like up close. In its central part, among the cooling magma, there are rocky islands. The edges of the lake are glowing lava.

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“The reflection of the lake recorded by our instruments suggests that part of Io's surface is as smooth as glass,” the scientist said. He added that it resembles obsidian glass, which is formed as a result of volcanic activity on Earth. It is formed as a result of the rapid solidification of magma rising to the surface of the planet.

An artist's impression of the Loki Patera lava lake on Jupiter's moonNASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

Research on Jupiter's moons

Juno's observations also revealed that Io's surface is smoother than the surfaces of the gas giant's three other so-called Galilean moons – Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. They were named after Galileo Galilei, who discovered them in 1610.

A year ago, the JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer) probe launched towards the largest planet in the Solar System, whose task is to study Jupiter's moons.

NASA, LiveScience, tvnmeteo.pl

Main photo source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

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