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U.Va. Astronomer, Researchers Contribute to Landmark Look at Jupiter’s Moon

Published May 14, 2015 in News

By: Lorenzo Perez, Senior Writer

A University of Virginia astronomer and a former Ph.D. student from the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Astronomy are playing key roles in an international effort to dramatically extend the reach of discovery for the next generation of Extremely Large Telescopes.

Just last week, the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory’s team of university and research institute astronomers, which includes Prof. Michael Skrutskie of the College’s Department of Astronomy and former U.Va. graduate student Jarron Leisenring, announced the milestone observations of a large lava lake on one of Jupiter’s moons.

Astronomers have known for decades that Io, the innermost of Jupiter’s four moons, is the most volcanically active object in the solar system, with perhaps hundreds of volcanoes. Voyager, Galileo and other spacecraft missions have captured images of Io’s volcanic features from space. Until the development of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona, however, the lava lake fed by the largest volcano on Io was too small to be observed with any detail from a ground-based telescope.

Loki, the largest volcanic feature on Io, has a diameter of 200 kilometers and is at least 600 million kilometers from Earth.

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