What else can we expect from Io?
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
While Jupiter’s moon Europa is suspected to host a hidden ocean — boosting the possibility of alien lifeforms — its sibling Io has a reputation for being a lot more destructive.
Hundreds of volcanoes continuously erupt over Io’s surface, thanks to the gravitational tug-of-war between Jupiter and its other moons.
That helps it detect slight changes in gas levels around Io.
Jeff Morgenthaler, PSI
Starting sometime between July and September 2022, levels of sodium and ionized sulfur drastically increased around Io, and stayed high until December.
Spiked levels of these compounds indicate elevated volcanic activity.
But NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Jupiter in order to study the planet and its moons, could shed some light on the mystery.
“Juno measurements may be able to tell us if this volcanic outburst had a different composition than previous ones.”
Jeff Morgenthaler, in a press release
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
The spacecraft flew by Europa during the outburst, and also passed Io in December 2022, collecting more data and images of the strange world. It will encounter Io again in December 2023.