Ganymede, Alongside Jupiter, Provides a Cassini Photo Opportunity

Dec. 22, 2000


Ganymede bears the scars of its geologic past as it orbits alongside Jupiter in this color picture taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Dec. 3, 2000. The spacecraft then was 26.5 million kilometers (15.9 million miles) from Ganymede.

The bright spot near the south (bottom) of Ganymede is Osiris, a large, young crater surrounded by bright icy material ejected by the impact that created it. Dark terrain, visible in the upper right region of the satellite in this photo, is old and heavily cratered surface, Voyager and Galileo spacecraft have shown.

The image is available at the web site of the Cassini Imaging Science team at the University of Arizona, Tucson, http://www.ciclops.lpl.arizona.edu/ciclops/. and at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab web site, http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/pictures/jupiter

Ganymede, the largest satellite in the solar system, is a fascinating world. Bigger than the planet Mercury, it is the only satellite known to have a magnetosphere produced by a convecting metal core. Ganymede's magnetosphere interacts with Jupiter's magnetosphere to create what might be a dazzling, changing auroral light show. Cassini Imaging Team scientists hope to see stunning auroral glows as the satellite passes into Jupiter's shadow.

NASA's Galileo spacecraft, which has been orbiting Jupiter for five years, recently found evidence of a liquid ocean hidden below Ganymede's surface. Galileo will fly past Ganymede for another close encounter on Dec. 28.

Cassini will pass Jupiter at a distance of about 9.7 million kilometers (6 million miles) a week from tomorrow, Dec. 30. The spacecraft will use a boost from Jupiter's gravity to reach its ultimate destination, Saturn, in July 2004. Additional information from collaborative studies of Jupiter by Cassini and NASA's Galileo spacecraft is available online at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/jupiterflyby

Cassini is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona



Europa, Callisto and Jupiter Caught in Ancient, Orbital Dance
(Released December 21, 2000)

One moment in an ancient, orbital dance is caught in this color picture taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Dec. 7, 2000, just as two of Jupiter's four major moons, Europa and Callisto, were nearly perfectly aligned with each other and the center of the planet.

The distances are deceiving. Europa, seen against Jupiter, is 600,000 kilometers (370,000 miles) above the planet's cloud tops. Callisto, at lower left, is nearly three times that distance from the cloud tops. Europa is a bit smaller than Earth's Moon and has one of the brightest surfaces in the solar system. Callisto is 50
percent bigger -- roughly the size of Saturn's largest satellite, Titan -- and three times darker than Europa. Its brightness had to be enhanced in this picture, relative Europa's and Jupiter's, in order for Callisto to be seen in this image.

The images are available from the web site of the Cassini Imaging Science team at the University of Arizona, Tucson, http://www.ciclops.lpl.arizona.edu/ciclops/ and at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab web site, http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/pictures/jupiter

Europa and Callisto have had very different geologic histories but share some surprising similarities, such as surfaces rich in ice. Callisto has apparently not undergone major internal compositional stratification, but Europa's interior has differentiated into a rocky core and an outer layer of nearly pure ice. Callisto's ancient surface is completely covered by large impact craters: The brightest features seen on Callisto in this image were discovered by the Voyager spacecraft in 1979 to be bright craters, like those on our Moon. In contrast, Europa's young surface is covered by a wild tapestry of ridges, chaotic terrain and only a handful of large craters.

Recent data from the magnetometer carried by the Galileo spacecraft, which has been in orbit around Jupiter since 1995, indicate the presence of conducting fluid, most likely salty water, inside both Callisto and Europa.

Scientists are eager to discover whether the surface of Saturn's Titan resembles that of Callisto or Europa, or whether it is entirely different, when Cassini finally reaches its destination in 2004.

Cassini is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

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