Io Erupts

Io with Multiple Eruptions

As New Horizons swung by Jupiter a few days ago, we got a good look at some new volcanic activity on Io. There are at least 3 active plumes seen in this image which is lit by both the Sun and Jupiter reflection (the New Horizon cameras were designed for the low light expected at Pluto). The largest one seen here, Tvashtar, represents the best detail we have ever aquired of an active volcano on Io… even compared to those of Galileo. The secondary plume at 9 0’clock is Prometheus and the third one, Masubi, is inset around 6 o’clock catching the light of the Sun on the dark side of Io.

This will be the last image of an early handful as the spacecraft is simply too busy recording data to turn around and face the Earth to talk to us. More images will be released in the coming weeks as activities die down and the spacecraft has less to record. Sadly, once the full stream of data is returned to Earth from this encounter – it will be the last up-close images we will see of Jupiter and its moons for at least 15 years as no new missions to Jupiter have yet been assigned. Based on previous experience, any new proposed missions to the outer Solar System will take at least 12 years to concieve, approve and build (especially depending upon its complexity). I only pray that I live to see the day that we go beneath the icy crust of Europa and take a fantastic other-worldly-under-sea voyage to a place that may be the only environment in our solar system hospitable to evolving life.