The NASA Juno spacecraft has potentially discovered a hidden volcano in Jupiter’s moon Io.
Juno is an important instrument that has made significant contributions to astronomy. It has spent nearly 150 million miles in Jupiter’s orbit since it first went up in 2016. Since then, the craft has taken pictures, recorded time-lapse photos, and made new discoveries.
The volcano on Io is the newest addition to that list.
Researchers working with NASA first took note of the potential formation when analyzing data collected by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument. Study of the Io revealed a brand new heat source near its south pole.
Though astronomers are not sure what the heat source is, chances are that it is another volcano. Io — which is known as the most volcanically active body in the solar system — already has plenty, and the finding would further reinforce that title.
The newly discovered hotspot sits 200 miles from the nearest known heat signature. While there is a chance it is a previously known volcano that moved over time, more research needs to be done before any conclusions can be made.
“The new Io hotspot JIRAM picked up is about 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the nearest previously mapped hotspot,” said Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, according to Phys.org. “We are not ruling out movement or modification of a previously discovered hot spot, but it is difficult to imagine one could travel such a distance and still be considered the same feature.”
NASA plans to follow up on their research in the coming months to see what else they can figure out about Io. They hope the Juno craft will give them more insight after the next flyby, which is set to take place in a few days.
“We are not ruling out movement or modification of a previously discovered hotspot, but it is difficult to imagine one could travel such a distance and still be considered the same feature,” added Mura, in a statement.