Taking a new step...is what people fear most. - Dostoyevski
Ganymede [GAN-ee-meed] is the largest moon of Jupiter and is the largest in our solar system with a diameter of 5,262 km (3,280 miles). If Ganymede orbited the Sun instead of Jupiter it could be classified as a planet. Like Callisto, Ganymede is most likely composed of a rocky core with a water/ice mantle and a crust of rock and ice. Its low density of 1.94 gm/cm3, indicates that the core takes up about 50% of the satellite's diameter. Ganymede's mantle is most likely composed of ice and silicates, and its crust is probably a thick layer of water ice.
Ganymede has no known atmosphere, but recently the Hubble Space Telescope detected ozone at its surface. The amount of ozone is small as compared to Earth. It is produced as charged particles trapped in Jupiter's magnetic field rain down onto the surface of Ganymede. As the charged particles penetrate the icy surface, particles of water are disrupted leading to ozone production. This chemical process hints that Ganymede probably has a thin tenuous oxygen atmosphere like that detected on Europa.
Ganymede has had a complex geological histroy. It has mountains, valleys, craters and lava flows. Ganymede is mottled by both light and dark regions. It is heavily cratered especially in the dark regions implying ancient origin. The bright regions show a different kind of terrain - one which is grooved with ridges and troughs. These features form complex patterns and have a vertical relief of a few hundred meters and run for thousands of kilometers. The grooved features were apparently formed more recently than the dark cratered area perhaps by tension from global tectonic processes. The real reason is unknown; however, local crust spreading does appear to have taken place causing the crust to shear and separate.
Discovered by Simon Marius & Galileo Galilei
Date of discovery 1610
Mass (kg) 1.48e+23
Mass (Earth = 1) 2.4766e-02
Equatorial radius (km) 2,631
Equatorial radius (Earth = 1) 4.1251e-01
Mean density (gm/cm^3) 1.94
Mean distance from Jupiter (km) 1,070,000
Rotational period (days) 7.154553
Orbital period (days) 7.154553
Mean orbital velocity (km/sec) 10.88
Orbital eccentricity 0.002
Orbital inclination (degrees) 0.195
Escape velocity (km/sec) 2.74
Visual geometric albedo 0.42
Magnitude (Vo) 4.61
|Animations of Ganymede|
|Views of Ganymede|
This shows an entire hemisphere of Ganymede. The prominent dark region, called Galileo Regio, is about 3,200 km in diameter. The bright spots are relative recent impact craters. Part of the Galileo Regio may be covered with a bright frost. (Credit: Calvin J. Hamilton)
Interior of Ganymede
Voyager images were used to create a global view of Ganymede. The cut-out reveals the interior structure of this icy moon. This structure consists of four layers based on measurements of Ganymede's gravity field and theoretical analyses using Ganymede's known mass, size and density. Ganymede's surface is rich in water ice and Voyager and Galileo images show features which are evidence of geological and tectonic disruption of the surface in the past. As with the Earth, these geological features reflect forces and processes deep within Ganymede's interior. Based on geochemical and geophysical models, scientists expected Ganymede's interior to either consist of: a) an undifferentiated mixture of rock and ice or b) a differentiated structure with a large lunar sized 'core' of rock and possibly iron overlain by a deep layer of warm soft ice capped by a thin cold rigid ice crust. Galileo's measurement of Ganymede's gravity field during its first and second encounters with the huge moon have basically confirmed the differentiated model and allowed scientists to estimate the size of these layers more accurately. In addition the data strongly suggest that a dense metallic core exists at the center of the rock core. This metallic core suggests a greater degree of heating at sometime in Ganymede's past than had been proposed before and may be the source of Ganymede's magnetic field discovered by Galileo's space physics experiments.
Model of Ganymede
This is an illustration Ganymede's interior. Its low density indicates that its core takes up about 50% of the satellites radius. The mantle is probably composed of silicates, water or ice, and the crust is composed of ice less than 75 kilometers in depth. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)
Southern Galileo Regio
This image of southern Galileo Regio shows impact craters in various stages of degradation. Almost all of the craters appear flat. The two prominent light colored craters are almost completely erased by the flow in the icy crust. (Credit: Calvin J. Hamilton)
This mosaic of high resolution images on Ganymede shows a relative fresh impact basin surrounded by ejecta. (Credit: Calvin J. Hamilton)
Craters, Light and Dark Bands
This image of Ganymede was taken by Voyager 1, 246,000 kilometers (158,000 miles) from the planet. The center of the picture is at 19° south latitude and 356° longitude, and the height of the frame represents a distance of about 1000 kilometers (600 miles) on the surface. The smallest features seen on this picture are about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) across. The surface displays numerous impact craters many of which have extensive bright ray systems. The craters lacking ray systems are probably older than those showing rays. Bright bands traverse the surface in various directions and these bright bands contain an intricate system of alternating linear bright and dark lines which may represent deformation of the crusted ice layer. These lineations are particularly evident near the top of the picture. A bright band trending in a north-south direction in the lower left-hand portion of the picture is offset along a bright line. This offset is probably due to faulting. Two light circular areas in the right upper center of the picture may be the scars of ancient impact craters which have had their topographic expansion erased by flowage of the crystal icy material. (Image Copyright Calvin J. Hamilton)
Crescent Image of Ganymede
This beautiful crescent image of Ganymede was taken by Voyager 1 on March 6, 1979. (Copyright Calvin J. Hamilton)
Temperature Map of Ganymede
This map shows the temperatures for most of the surface of Ganymede made from data taken by the Photopolarimeter/Radiometer (PPR) instrument on June 26, 1996 as Galileo approached the sunlit side of the moon. The color bar shows the range of temperatures of this data, with the dark red being the coldest and white being the warmest. This is similar to the temperature forecast maps that you see on the evening news or in some newspapers. The difference between this map and one of Earth is that PPR measures the temperature of the surface (the ground), instead of air temperature. Ganymede is much colder than Earth, with these daytime temperatures ranging across the surface from 90 to 160 Kelvin (or -297 to -171 degrees Fahrenheit). Jupiter and its moons receive less than 1/30th the amount of sunlight that the Earth does, and Ganymede has essentially no atmosphere to trap heat. Ganymede's day is just over 7 Earth days long, the same time it takes to orbit Jupiter once. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)
Jupiter Europa Callisto
Copyright © 1997 by Calvin J. Hamilton. All rights reserved.