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Io the Volcanic Moon of Jupiter
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Io, the Volcanic Moon of Jupiter

April 22, 2005
Io has a diameter of 3660 km and orbits Jupiter at a mean distance of 422,000 km - one revolution takes 42.5 hours. Like the Earth's moon, it always turns the same side towards the planet. As shown by the Voyager spacecraft in 1979, its surface is covered by active volcanoes and lava fields - it is in fact the most volcanic place known in the solar system.

Due to this activity, Io's surface is continuously reshaped. The features now seen are all correspondingly young, with a mean age of the order of 1 million years only. The variations in appearance and colour are due to different volcanic deposits of sulphur compounds. The cause of all this activity is Jupiter's strong gravitational pull that leads to enormous stresses inside Io and related heating of the entire moon.

This photo is a near-infrared NAOS-CONICA image of Io , obtained on December 5, 2001, through a narrow optical filter at wavelength 2.166 µm. The excellent image resolution makes it possible to identify many features on the surface. Some of these are volcanoes, others correspond to lava fields between these.


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