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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 7:50 EDT

Jupiter’s Moon Ganymede

Jupiter’s Moon Ganymede — Ganymede is the largest satellite in the solar system with a diameter of 5,268 km (3270 miles). It is larger than Mercury and Pluto, and three-quarters the size of Mars. If Ganymede orbited the Sun instead of orbiting Jupiter, it would easily be classified as a planet.

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/cm 3, 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, 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.

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NASA

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Jupiter8217s Moon Ganymede