Using instruments on a ground-based telescope, one scientist based at the Planetary Science Institute (PSI) in Arizona has detected the largest volcanic eruption in years on the Jupiter moon Io.
PSI Senior Scientist [Jeff] Morgenthaler has been using IoIO, located near Benson, Arizona to monitor volcanic activity on Io, since 2017. The observations show some sort of outburst nearly every year, but the largest yet was seen in the fall of 2022. Io is the innermost of Jupiter’s four large moons and is the most volcanic body in the Solar System thanks to the tidal stresses it feels from Jupiter and two of its other large satellites, Europa and Ganymede.
IoIO uses a coronagraphic technique which dims the light coming from Jupiter to enable imaging of faint gases near the very bright planet. A brightening of two of these gases, sodium and ionized sulfur, began between July and September 2022 and lasted until December 2022. The ionized sulfur, which forms a donut-like structure that encircles Jupiter and is called the Io plasma torus, was curiously not nearly as bright in this outburst as previously seen. “This could be telling us something about the composition of the volcanic activity that produced the outburst or it could be telling us that the torus is more efficient at ridding itself of material when more material is thrown into it,” Morgenthaler said.
The material released by this eruption could impact Juno during future close approaches of Jupiter.
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