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New data from the ground-based Gemini telescope suggests that Io’s sulfur dioxide atmosphere freezes and then reinflates each time the moon flies through Jupiter’s shadow.
A study led by SwRI’s Constantine Tsang concluded that Io’s thin atmosphere, which consists primarily of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas emitted from volcanoes, collapses as the SO2 freezes onto the surface as ice when Io is shaded by Jupiter. When the moon moves out of eclipse and ice warms, the atmosphere reforms through sublimation, where ice converts directly to gas.
The data is somewhat uncertain, however, as it based on only two observations.