Glorious Ganymede Mapped

English: "Ganymede True Color Orbit 1&quo...

English: “Ganymede True Color Orbit 1” A true color image of Ganymede acquired by the Galileo spacecraft (taken on June 26, 1996). (NASA/JPL image) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What is by far the biggest of all the moons in the solar system is the seventh moon of the gas giant Jupiter, which astronomers have rarely mentioned much when talking about the multitude of moons that exist in our solar system. It has never attracted the interest generated by, for example, Titan, Europa, Enceladus, or the recently discovered Kerberos and Styx, companions of Pluto.

Mars’ moon Phobos, and our very own l moon attract more interest, but that is changing, as this planetoid has finally been mapped, after compiling images obtained through NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2, and those captured by the Galileo spacecraft on several passes, this comprehensive, colourful map the result of a project led by Geoffrey Collins of Wheaton College.

Ganymede may not make the headlines so often, but all the same it is a fascinating study for astronomers, and this wonderful video, using colours to  differentiate the Ganymede terrain, which is extremely varied, provides planetary scientists, for the first time, solid evidence of distinct periods of ancient, heavy cratering,  tectonic upheaval and more recent geologic motion in the history of this massive moon.

The comments have stated that this quite astonishing map helps to perfectly illustrate the extreme variety of Ganymede geological features, assisting researchers in making sense of its complex surface, deciphering the evolution of this icy world, which could well be of assistance for further upcoming spacecraft observations of the enormous satellite

The European Space Agency – ESA – is set in 2022 to launch JUICE  – Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission – set to be orbiting Ganymede around 2032 – one should not forget that the surface of Ganymede is over half the size of all the land area on Earth, meaning that there are multiple locations to choose from, the moon also displaying features that are ancient alongside much more recently formed ones.

Ganymede is the biggest of the 63 moons of Jupiter, and double the size of our own moon – 3,280 miles wide, it is in fact larger than Mercury and almost as big as Mars, with an complex, icy surface. This appears to be light areas lined with grooves and ridges, crisscrossed by dark regions covered with craters. The moon also possesses a very thin oxygen atmosphere, and a magnetosphere, generated by a heavy conductive metals molten core.  

Were Ganymede orbiting the sun, instead of going round Jupiter, it would easily be classified as a planet. It was first spotted by Galileo in 1610, and is visible from Earth just now because with Jupiter so bright in the night sky just, all one needs to see Ganymede for oneself is a small telescope – or a decent pair of tripod mounted binoculars – and a clear night sky, for optimal viewing.

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