Mysterious black spot on Earth-sized Jupiter seen by NASA spacecraft – and it's actually an eclipse caused by the fiery 'volcano moon'

NASA has captured stunning images of Jupiter, with an Earth-sized black spot on its surface.

In fact, it is a huge shadow of an eclipse caused by the moon of Jupiter Io passing in front of the sun.

A huge black "dot" on Jupiter's surface is actually the pure shadow of an eclipse. Credit: NASA

The images were taken by the Juno Nasa spacecraft, which circulates Jupiter since 2016.

Juno captured the eclipse on September 12 during a Jupiter flyover.

It was caused by Io, a fiery moon believed to be the most volcanically active object in the solar system.

Io is one of Jupiter's 79 moons, but orbits closer than the others.

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The shadow was cast by the fiery moon passing between Jupiter and the sun. Credit: NASA

More than 400 active volcanoes have been discovered on Io, spewing lava and gas up to 300 miles in the air.

There are over 100 mountains spread across Io, some of which are higher than Mount Everest.

It is also the fourth largest moon in the Solar System, the densest, and was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei.

In NASA's new images, Io's shadow appears to be similar in size to the Great Red Spot – a violent storm of Jupiter slightly larger than Earth.

"Io is so big and close that it more than blocks the sun (it looks 4x the size of the sun from Jupiter's perspective)," said Katie Mack, an astrophysicist who explains the effect of the eclipse.

"And it's so close that the penumbra (diffuse outer edge of the shadow) is super thin."

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Io is the most volcanically active object in the Solar System. Credit: NASA

 

How far is Jupiter from Earth?

Find out how long it takes to get the largest planet in the solar system …

  • At the nearest point of their respective orbits, Jupiter and Earth are about 365 million miles apart.
  • But since no planet revolves around the sun in a perfect circle at the same speed, that number fluctuates dramatically.
  • When they are farther apart, the planets are 601 million miles apart, more than two-thirds closer to the nearest point.
  • As it is further away, Jupiter takes 11.86 Earth years to complete an orbit of the sun.
  • As we travel around our star, we reach the gas giant once every 399 days, making the giant appear to travel back into the night sky.4
This stunning image of Jupiter was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and shows the Earth-sized "Great Red Spot" storm.

NASA's Juno spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin and launched from Florida on August 5, 2011.

It entered a polar orbit of Jupiter on July 5, 2016 to begin probing the planet.

Its mission involves measuring Jupiter's composition, gravity, and magnetic power – and finding clues about how the planet formed.

The Juno is powered by solar arrays and has imaging equipment used to send spectacular photos back to Earth.

Via National Geographic

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