Astronomy Picture of the Day
December 17, 2012


Credits: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona - Galileo Project - Credits for the additional process. and color.: Dr Paolo C. Fienga/Lunar Explorer Italia/IPF

The source area of what had been a towering Volcanic Plume in the middle of August of the AD 2001, lies in the far-right frame of this Image-Mosaic (of pictures taken by the NASA - Galileo Spacecraft on October, 16th, 2001) which shows us a portion of the Northern Latitudes of the Jovian "Volcanic" moon, Io. The Region showed in this Image-Mosaic includes the Zamama Lava Flow-Field, which emanates from the Northernmost of 2 (two) small Volcanoes visible in the far left frame. These Lava Flows were not present in any of the NASA - Voyager 1 Probe's images of Io, so it is logic to assume that they must have formed sometime between the NASA - Voyager 1 Fly-By (that occurred in the AD 1979) and the early observations of Io made by the NASA - Galileo Spacecraft and which took place in the AD 1996 (in addition to that, it has to be said that the NASA - Galileo Spacecraft also observed the Zamama Lava Flow-Field during the Io encounters that occurred in the AD 1999: a time when some NASA scientists identified narrow, long, dark Lava Flows which they thought to be relatively similar to other Lava Flows found on Planet Earth and, to be precise, in the Hawaii Islands).

Moving North/East, the second and third frames of this mosaic show a number of Lava Flow-Fields and several Unnamed Volcanic Depressions, known as "Paterae". It is still unclear whether the broad, shield-like features (or "Plateaux") on which the Paterae rest were created by Eruptions from the Paterae themselves, or if they were just preexisting Volcanic Features. Furthermore, some Fractures and Dark Lines suggest that the Crust of Io, in a few places of this Region, is breaking up, thus creating Cracks that Magma can use to rise up to the Surface. Finally, the far-right frame of this mosaic shows dark Lava Flows and bright "Spots". The bright "Spots" are probably Sulphur-bearing Plume Deposits, which are thought to be associated with the source of a Plume Eruption approx. 500 Km (such as about 310 miles) high, that was observed by the Galileo Spacecraft in August, 2001 (a Plume Eruption that actually was the largest one ever observed on Io).

This Image-Mosaic (which is an NASA - Original Galileo Spacecraft b/w Image-Mosaic published on May, 28th, 2002, on the NASA - Planetary Photojournal and identified by the serial n. PIA 03531) has been additionally processed and then colorized in Absolute Natural Colors (such as the colors that a human eye would actually perceive if someone were onboard the NASA - Galileo Spacecraft and then looked ahead, towards the Jovian moon Io), by using an original technique created - and, in time, dramatically improved - by the Lunar Explorer Italia Team.

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