The Galilean Satellites
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The Galilean Satellites

September 26, 2003
This composite includes the four largest moons of Jupiter which are known as the Galilean satellites. From left to right, the moons shown are Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa. The Galilean satellites were first seen by the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610. In order of increasing distance from Jupiter, Io is closest, followed by Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. The order of these satellites from the planet Jupiter helps to explain some of the visible differences among the moons. Io is subject to the strongest tidal stresses from the massive planet. These stresses generate internal heating which is released at the surface and makes Io the most volcanically active body in our solar system. Europa appears to be strongly differentiated with a rock/iron core, an ice layer at its surface, and the potential for local or global zones of water between these layers. Tectonic resurfacing brightens terrain on the less active and partially differentiated moon Ganymede.

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