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Tvashtar in Motion
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Tvashtar in Motion

July 16, 2007
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This five-frame sequence of New Horizons images captures the giant plume from Io's Tvashtar volcano. Snapped by the probe's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft flew past Jupiter earlier this year, this first-ever “movie” of an Io plume clearly shows motion in the cloud of volcanic debris, which extends 330 kilometers (200 miles) above the moon's surface. Only the upper part of the plume is visible from this vantage point - the plume's source is 130 kilometers (80 miles) below the edge of Io's disk, on the far side of the moon.

The appearance and motion of the plume is remarkably similar to an ornamental fountain on Earth, replicated on a gigantic scale. The knots and filaments that allow us to track the plume's motion are still mysterious, but this movie is likely to help scientists understand their origin, as well as provide unique information on the plume dynamics.

Io's hyperactive nature is emphasized by the fact that two other volcanic plumes are also visible off the edge of Io's disk: Masubi at the 7 o'clock position, and a very faint plume, possibly from the volcano Zal, at the 10 o'clock position. Jupiter illuminates the night side of Io, and the most prominent feature visible on the disk is the dark horseshoe shape of the volcano Loki, likely an enormous lava lake. Boosaule Mons, which at 18 kilometers (11 miles) is the highest mountain on Io and one of the highest mountains in the solar system, pokes above the edge of the disk on the right side.

The five images were obtained over an 8-minute span, with two minutes between frames, from 23:50 to 23:58 Universal Time on March 1, 2007. Io was 3.8 million kilometers (2.4 million miles) from New Horizons; the image is centered at Io coordinates 0 degrees north, 342 degrees west.

The pictures were part of a sequence designed to look at Jupiter's rings, but planners included Io in the sequence because the moon was passing behind Jupiter's rings at the time.


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