With the first detailed observations through imaging interferometry of a lava lake on a moon of Jupiter, the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory places itself as the forerunner of the next generation of Extremely Large Telescopes.
Io, the innermost of the four moons of Jupiter discovered by Galileo Galilei in 1610 and only slightly bigger than our own moon, is the most geologically active body in our solar system. Hundreds of volcanic areas dot its surface, which is mostly covered with sulfur and sulfur dioxide.
The largest of these volcanic features, named Loki after the Norse god often associated with fire and chaos, is a volcanic depression called patera in which the denser lava crust solidifying on top of a lava lake episodically sinks in the lake, yielding a raise in the thermal emission that has been regularly observed from Earth. Loki, only 124 miles in diameter and at least 373 million miles from Earth, was, up until recently, too small to be looked at in detail from any ground-based optical/infrared telescope.
With its two mirrors, each 8.4 meters (about 27 feet) across, set on the same mount 20 feet apart, the Large Binocular Telescope, or LBT, produces images at the same level of detail that a telescope with a single, 22.8-meter (75-foot) mirror would achieve by combining the light through interferometry. Thanks to the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer, or LBTI, an international team of researchers was able to look at Loki Patera, revealing details as never before seen from Earth. Their study is published in the Astronomical Journal. Source: Giant telescope takes close look at Jupiter’s moon Io