(Adnkronos) – The most accurate map has been created of Io, the volcanically dotted hellish moon of Jupiter. Thanks to data collected by the Jiram instrument aboard the NASA Juno mission, a research team led by the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics has identified 242 “hotspots,” or hot spots that indicate the presence of volcanoes, 23 of which have not been observed before. on Jupiter’s innermost satellite. INAF and the Italian Space Agency report that data indicate a higher concentration of volcanic hotspots in polar regions than in mid-latitudes. According to the scientists, this is “the best remotely obtained mapping”.
The infernal moon Io — the innermost regular body in the Jovian system — is the most volcanically active body in the entire solar system, and a recent article published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (Grl) sheds new light on the volcanic properties of this natural satellite. In particular, ASI and Inaf report that the new information comes thanks to new data collected by the Jiram-Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper, one of eight instruments aboard NASA’s Juno probe. The find speaks volumes for Italian since the instrument was funded by ASI, which Leonardo created and the scientific responsibility of INAF.
Asi and Inaf explain that the article identifies “the most recent map of the distribution of hotspots – volcanic hotspots – of Io produced using Jiram telemetry data at the best spatial scale currently available. The researchers, led by INAF, were able to obtain better coverage of the regions of Io near the poles than they had “The hotspot map presented in our work is the most recent among those based on a spatial basis,” explains Francesca Zambone, a member of Jerome’s group, a researcher at INAF in Rome and first author of the article published on GRL. Remote sensing data”. The researcher at Enav argues that “by analyzing the infrared images obtained by Jerram, we have identified 242 volcanic hot spots, 23 of which are not found in other catalogs and are located in most cases in the polar regions, thanks to the peculiar orbit of Juno probe.
Researcher Zambon adds that “comparing our study to the latest catalog reveals that Jerome observed 82% of the strongest hotspots previously identified, and half of the hotspots of medium strength, which indicates that they are still active.” However, Zambon notes, “Jeram has detected only half of the previously reported weaker hotspots” and for the INAF scientist “there are two explanations: either Jeram’s resolution is insufficient to detect these weaker hotspots, or the activity of these hotspots may be may have faded or ceased.”
When NASA’s Voyager 1 space probe approached Io, Jupiter’s innermost Galilean moon, in March 1979, images sent back to Earth revealed that its surface appeared to be strewn with many hot volcanic centers, with huge lava flows and tall plumes. for a few hundred kilometres. Then, exploration by NASA’s Galileo mission showed that these hotspots abound: some in the hundreds, many with almost constant activity.
The moon Io shows many volcanic centers, which are mainly caused by the strong tidal forces exerted by Jupiter. According to the scientists, studying the volcanic activity of this Jovian satellite is “the key to understanding the nature of geological processes and their internal evolution. The distribution of hotspots and their spatial and temporal variability are important for determining the characteristics of tidal heating and the mechanisms by which heat escapes from the interior.”
Alessandro Mora, chair of the Jerame group and researcher at INAF in Rome, explains, “One of the main open points in understanding the internal structure of Io is whether the volcanic activity that can be observed at the surface results from a global magma ocean existing in the mantle, or magma chambers that creeping into the crust at lower depths. Jerome’s observations are ongoing, and future high-resolution images will be useful in better highlighting weak hotspots and elucidating the internal structure of Io.”
Other aspects of the study were clarified by Giuseppe Sindone, Jiram project leader for ASI, who noted that “the surface of the Jovian moon Io is very dynamic, with volcanic and lava emissions constantly evolving, as evidenced by this important result obtained by the Io instrument.” Jiram and the excellent work done by the team.” “Extending the Juno mission until 2025 will allow us to better monitor this evolution and understand the physical processes driving such a complex body with features similar to our primordial Earth, as well as anticipate future dedicated missions.”
The Juno spacecraft was launched in August 2011 from Cape Canaveral and has been in orbit around Jupiter since July 2016. Since then it has traveled 235 million kilometers. Juno remains NASA’s farthest probe in planetary orbit, and will continue its surveys of the solar system’s largest planet through September 2025. At the end of the year, on December 30, 2023, during its 57th orbit around Jupiter, Juno will make the probe’s closest approach to Io, at a distance Not less than 4800 km. NASA’s Europa Clipper and ESA’s Smoothie missions, which will operate in the Jupiter system in the 2030s, will not come close to such distances. So it will be critical that Juno also be able to make observations with Jiram during all the upcoming opportunities expected in 2023.
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