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Jupiter Summary


Jupiter Moon: Amalthea!


Amalthea (a nymph in Greek mythology) is the third moon from Jupiter. It is the largest of Jupiter's non-Galilean satellites and one of four moons that circle around Jupiter inside the orbit of Io. Amalthea rotates on its axes once for each orbit around Jupiter, always keeping the same side facing the planet. This satellite resembles more of a potato (similar to the Martian moon Phobos but 10 times bigger) than a more common round ball. This is due to the fact that Amalthea's gravitational force is not large enough to pull itself into a sphere. Amalthea is dark and the reddest object known in the Solar System. The color is probably from gravity caught sulfur which originated from Io's. Bright green patches on the moon's major slopes are of unknown origin. Amalthea appears to give out more heat than it receives from the Sun. It is possible that as it orbits within Jupiter's powerful magnetic field, electric currents are included in the moon's core. The heat also could be caused from tidal stresses.

Observations of Amalthea by the Galileo spacecraft, in late 2002, showed that the moon has a very low density, indicating that it may be a loosely packed pile of rubble. Galileo's discovery supports the idea that the inner moons of Jupiter have undergone intense bombardment and breakup. Amalthea does not have quite enough mass to pull itself together into a consolidated, spherical body like Earth's Moon or Jupiter's four largest moons. Amalthea was discovered in 1892 by American astronomer Edward Emerson Barnard. The discovery happened to be the last satellite to be discovered visually through ground based observations.

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