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NASA scientists create first geological map of Ganymede

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February 25, 2014

The image is a mosaic of the best shots from various missions (Image: USGS Astrogeology Sc...

The image is a mosaic of the best shots from various missions (Image: USGS Astrogeology Science Center/Wheaton/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Image Gallery (3 images)

NASA scientists have produced the first global geological map of Jupiter's largest moon Ganymede by combining images from over twenty years of observation by the Voyager spacecraft and the Galileo orbiter.

Ganymede, which as the largest moon in the Solar System is bigger than the planet Mercury, hosts a thick mantle of ice roughly 800km (497 mi) thick. The moon has two major terrain types, dark cratered areas and younger regions characterized by a plethora of grooves and ridges. The map, published by the US Geological Survey exhibits three distinct geological periods demarcated by cratering, tectonic disturbances and finally by a drop in geologic activity.

“This map illustrates the incredible variety of geological features on Ganymede and helps to make order from the apparent chaos of its complex surface,” says Robert Pappalardo of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

A size comparison of Jupiter's four Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede, whi...

A size comparison of Jupiter's four Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede, which is pictured on the bottom right (Image: NASA)

With an equatorial circumference of 16,532 km (10,272 Mi) Ganymede presents an attractive target for global mapping as it hosts a surprising diversity of geographical characteristics. Future missions to map other moons will now be able to use Ganymede as a point of reference.

An artists Impression of JUICE (Image: ESA)

Further detailed observations of Jupiter's moons will be undertaken by the European Space Agency's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) scheduled to arrive in orbit around Jupiter in 2030, whereupon it will spend at least three years taking measurements of the gas giant and its wards.

The animation below shows the geologic map of Ganymede superimposed over a global color mosaic. (Credit: USGS Astrogeology Science Ctr/Wheaton/ASU/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Source: NASA

About the Author
Anthony Wood Anthony is a recent law school graduate who also has a degree in Ancient History, for some reason or another. Residing in the UK, Anthony has had a passion about anything space orientated from a young age and finds it baffling that we have yet to colonize the moon. When not writing he can be found watching American football and growing out his magnificent beard.   All articles by Anthony Wood
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