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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
by Bob Everoski
Looking at IO
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By Bob Everoski
Nov. 11, 2013 1:44 p.m.



The planet Jupiter currently has 63 known moons or natural satellites making it like a miniature solar system in itself.  One of its most interesting moons is called Io.  It was discovered on January 8, 1610 by the famous Italian astronomer named Galileo Galilei.  

    Io is the fifth moon in order of its distance from the planet Jupiter.  It orbits Jupiter every 1.77 days at an average distance of 262,000 miles from the planet.  Io is just a little larger than our Moon being about 2,260 miles in diameter.

    Several unmanned spacecraft launched from the United States have flown past the planet Jupiter and it moons providing us with an enormous amount of new information about the largest planet in our solar system.   One of these spacecraft named Voyager 1 passed within 173,000 miles of Jupiter in March, 1979, and also made numerous observations of many of the Jovian moons.

    Io was found to look like a poorly made pizza having colors of red, orange, yellow, green, white, and black.  During the Voyager I flyby, it discovered that Io has numerous active volcanoes.  Instead of spewing lava and ash as they do on Earth, the volcanoes on Io spew out molten sulfur and sulfur dioxide.  It is thought that the reason for this volcanic activity on Io is as a result of it being well within Jupiter’s strong magnetic and gravitational field as well as being pulled on gravitationally by its large neighboring moons named Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede.

    There are very few impact craters found on Io which means that its surface is very active.  Io also has very high mountains.  Some are higher than Mount Everest on the Earth.  It is still a mystery as to how they formed.  The remainder of the surface of Io has numerous plains.

    To view the planet Jupiter, and some of its moons, including Io, look about 60 degrees above the southern horizon at about 6:00 A.M.    Jupiter is clearly the brightest object in the general area.  Remember, if you hold your fist out at arm’s length, the distance between the lower and upper part of your fist measures about 10 degrees.

    Io would be visible to the unaided eye if it weren’t for its proximity to the brilliant Jupiter.  Even with a small telescope, you can easily see Io, and other Jovian moons, as small pinpoints of light on either side of Jupiter near its equatorial plane.  Sometimes the shadows of these moons can be seen crossing the disk of Jupiter.         

                 

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