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NASA's Juno spacecraft prepares for Jupiter moon Io close flyby
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NASA's Juno spacecraft prepares for Jupiter moon Io close flyby
by Patrick Hilsman
Washington DC (UPI) Dec 28, 2021

NASA's Juno spacecraft is preparing for a close flyby of Jupiter's moon Io, which scientists hope will lend insight into the structure of the volcanically active moon.

Juno is expected to pass within about 930 miles of Io's surface on Saturday. During the flyby, Juno will use three instruments to examine the moon.

"The pass is expected to allow Juno instruments to generate a firehose of data," NASA said in a press release Wednesday.

The Stellar Reference Unit camera "will obtain the highest-resolution image of the surface to date."

The Jovian Infrared Aural Mapper will study the heat signatures of volcanos on Io's surface, and the JunoCam will obtain images within the visible light spectrum.

"We are looking for how often they erupt, how bright and hot they are how the shape of the lava flow changes, and how Io's activity is connected to the flow of charged particles in Jupiter's magnetosphere," said Juno investigator Scott Bolton.

"Juno will investigate the source of Io's massive volcanic activity, whether a magma ocean exists underneath its crust, and the importance of tidal forces from Jupiter."

The Juno mission will complete an additional flyby of Io on Feb. 3 and will subsequently pass between Jupiter and the sun, placing the solar-powered spacecraft in darkness for five minutes.

NASA says that though Juno is solar-powered, "the duration will be too short to affect its overall operation."

In 2021, data from Juno was used to determine that Jupiter's Great Red Spot is about 100 miles deeper than previously thought.

Last year, Juno completed a flyby of Jupiter's moon Europa, and sent back detailed images to Earth.

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