Jupiter’s moon Io as you’ve never seen it

Half a tan-colored sphere with dozens of small, round dark spots on it..
The Juno spacecraft acquired this new closeup image of the innermost moon Io on December 30, 2023. It was its 57th perijove, or close flyby to Jupiter, since entering orbit around the giant planet on July 4, 2016. Some of those pockmarks are active volcanos. Image via NASA.

Juno images Jupiter’s moon Io

On December 30, 2023, NASA’s Juno spacecraft made the closest flyby of Jupiter’s moon Io in 20 years. Juno got as close as 930 miles (1,500 km) to Io during this most recent pass. Io is Jupiter’s innermost moon, a volcanically active world. You can see plumes from its smoking volcanoes in the images below. Io’s volcanism comes from its proximity to the solar system’s largest planet and the other large moons nearby. The push and pull of their tidal forces sculpts the planet’s surface.

Juno launched back in 2011 and began orbiting Jupiter in 2016. And NASA has extended its science mission until 2025. Juno’s next close pass by Io will be on February 2, 2024.

The 2024 lunar calendars are here! Best New Year’s gifts in the universe! Check ’em out here.

Public processing of the raw images

The raw images of the Juno flyby were already available on the day of the flyby, and talented people jumped in to process the data. Below are some amazing processed images of Io shared on X (Twitter).

You, too, can check out the raw data from the Juno mission and try your own hand at image processing. In fact, NASA has many citizen science projects that anyone can participate in by using just a cell phone or a laptop.

The future of the Juno mission

Eventually, at the end of its mission, Juno will perform a controlled deorbit into Jupiter. Likewise, Cassini ended its mission to Saturn with a similar maneuver into the Ringed Planet. NASA chooses to crash the spacecraft into the planets in an effort to eliminate space debris and lower the risk of contamination. These fiery endings are part of NASA’s interplanetary protection guidelines.

Tan half-sphere with many dark spots plus connecting lighter regions that suggest varied terrain.
This raw image of Io is from the Juno spacecraft. Juno flew by Jupiter’s innermost moon, Io, on December 30, 2023. It was the closest flyby of a spacecraft past Io in 20 years. Image via NASA.

Bottom line: On December 30, 2023, the Juno spacecraft visited Jupiter’s moon Io. It was the closest flyby of the volcanic moon in 20 years. See the images here.

Read more: Jupiter’s moon Io: Global magma ocean, or hot metal core?

January 3, 2024

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

Kelly Kizer Whitt

View All