The Juno probe has been tasked with learning a leviathan: Jupiter, the heavyweight of the Photo voltaic System, King of the Planets.

However a planet the dimensions of Jupiter, practically 318 instances the mass of Earth, is not with out its buddies.


The gasoline big has 79 identified moons (and probably extra unknown), certainly one of them even larger than Mercury. Juno is exploring the connection between a few of these moons and their host planet – and typically, seeing them present up photobombing photos of the Massive Jupe itself.

The newest of those is so breathtaking, it nearly seems to be like an paintings of science fiction. Jupiter looms giant, its traditional bands of roiling, swirling cloud and spot-like cyclones clearly seen on the southern hemisphere within the daylight.

jupiter with io and europa inset size(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/AndreaLuck)

To the suitable of the enormous planet, two comparatively small specks sail serenely towards the inky darkness. These are two of Jupiter’s 4 Galilean moons – the biggest of its satellites, found by Galileo Galilei.

The 2 pictured listed below are the smaller of the 4: Io, with an equatorial diameter of 3,643.2 kilometers (2,264 miles); and Europa, with an equatorial diameter of 3,121.6 kilometers (1,940 miles).

jovian moons europa and io(NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/AndreaLuck)

Every of those moons is an interesting goal for research in its personal proper. Io is probably the most volcanically energetic physique within the Photo voltaic System, speckled by over 400 energetic volcanoes on its floor. These are the results of inner gravitational stresses positioned on the moon, not simply by Jupiter, however by the three different Galilean moons

This volcanic exercise leads to Io’s environment turning into wealthy in sulfur dioxide, spewed out by the volcanoes. That environment consistently leaks, forming a plasma torus round Jupiter itself, which is channeled alongside magnetic fields traces to rain down onto Jupiter’s poles, producing everlasting aurorae.

The fixed spew of sulfur has additionally coated Io itself in varied sulfur compounds, which give the moon its predominantly yellow hue.

Yellow moon with loads of speckles on the surfaceTrue-color picture of Io. (NASA/JPL/College of Arizona)

Europa, in the meantime, is the goal of curiosity within the seek for life outdoors Earth. Beneath its pale, icy shell lurks an inside liquid ocean. Though the moon is way from the Solar, it, too, could also be internally heated by gravitational stress.

If that is so, then there could also be hydrothermal vents on the flooring of its international sea. Right here on Earth, such vents are havens for meals webs that rely not on photosynthesis, however chemosynthesis to outlive: harnessing chemical reactions for meals.


This has led astrobiologists to consider that, of all of the worlds within the Photo voltaic System, ice moons like Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus often is the almost certainly locations to search out extraterrestrial life.

Juno can be making shut flybys of those two very totally different worlds.

Europa, which can also be the goal of a devoted mission scheduled for a 2024 launch, can be visited by the probe in September of this yr. It will likely be the closest any probe has been to the moon in many years. Io, in the meantime, is scheduled for flybys in late 2023 and early 2024.

You may obtain the full-size model of this picture from the NASA web site.


By 24H

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