Ganymede

Ganymede

Jupiter's densely cratered moon Ganymede is the largest satellite in the Solar System and is believed to be composed mostly of rock and ice. Its small iron core generates a magnetic field about 1% as strong as the Earth's.

Like Io, Callisto and Europa, it was discovered by Galileo and the German astronomer Simon Marius in 1610.

The moon was first visited by the Voyager probes in 1979. Later in the 1990s the Galileo probe also returned data about this giant moon.

Photo: Ganymede taken by the Galileo probe (Galileo Project, JPL, NASA)

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Ganymede

About Ganymede

The Solar System's largest moon orbits Jupiter.

About Ganymede

Ganymede /ˈɡænɨmiːd/ (Jupiter III) is a satellite of Jupiter and the largest moon in the Solar System. It is the seventh moon and third Galilean satellite outward from Jupiter. Completing an orbit in roughly seven days, Ganymede participates in a 1:2:4 orbital resonance with the moons Europa and Io, respectively. It has a diameter of 5,268 km (3,273 mi), 8% larger than that of the planet Mercury, but has only 45% of the latter's mass. Its diameter is 2% larger than that of Saturn's Titan, the second largest moon. It also has the highest mass of all planetary satellites, with 2.02 times the mass of the Earth's moon.

Ganymede is composed of approximately equal amounts of silicate rock and water ice. It is a fully differentiated body with an iron-rich, liquid core, and it might have ice and oceans stacked up in several layers. Its surface is composed of two main types of terrain. Dark regions, saturated with impact craters and dated to four billion years ago, cover about a third of the satellite. Lighter regions, crosscut by extensive grooves and ridges and only slightly less ancient, cover the remainder. The cause of the light terrain's disrupted geology is not fully known, but was likely the result of tectonic activity brought about by tidal heating.

Ganymede is the only moon in the Solar System known to possess a magnetosphere, likely created through convection within the liquid iron core. The meager magnetosphere is buried within Jupiter's much larger magnetic field and would show only as a local perturbation of the field lines. The satellite has a thin oxygen atmosphere that includes O, O2, and possibly O3 (ozone).Atomic hydrogen is a minor atmospheric constituent. Whether the satellite has an ionosphere associated with its atmosphere is unresolved.

Ganymede's discovery is credited to Galileo Galilei, who was the first to observe it on January 7, 1610. The satellite's name was soon suggested by astronomer Simon Marius, for the mythological Ganymede, cupbearer of the Greek gods and Zeus's lover. Beginning with Pioneer 10, spacecraft have been able to examine Ganymede closely. The Voyager probes refined measurements of its size, whereas the Galileo craft discovered its underground ocean and magnetic field. The next planned mission to the Jovian system is the European Space Agency's Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE), due to launch in 2022. After flybys of all three icy Galilean moons the probe is planned to enter orbit around Ganymede.

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