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Jupiter Moon: Callisto!

 Jupiter and its four planet-size moons, called the Galilean satellites, were photographed in early March by Voyager 1 and assembled into this collage. They are not to scale but are in their relative positions.

Of Jupiter's four largest moons, the Galilean satellites, Callisto orbits farthest from the giant planet. Callisto is the second largest moon of Jupiter and the third largest in the solar system, after Ganymede and Titan. Callisto has the lowest density of the Galilean satellites and probably a very different internal structure. The interior of Callisto consists of water, rock and ice, all bound around a solid rocky core. Ice is prominent all around the surface of the moon because large meteorites had punctured deep into the surface and brought forth gushing streams that spread out and froze.

The picture, taken in May 2001, is the only complete global color image of Callisto obtained by Galileo, which has been orbiting Jupiter since December 1995.

Callisto is the most heavily cratered satellite in the solar system. Its crust is very ancient and dates back 4 billion years, just shortly after the solar system was formed. Callisto lacks any large mountains. This is probably due to the icy nature of its surface. Impact craters and associated concentric rings are about the only features to be found on Callisto. The largest craters have been erased by the flow of the icy crust over geologic time.

This picture of a multi-ring basin on Callisto was taken the morning of March 6, 1979, from a distance of about 200,000 km, by the Voyager 1 mission.

In February 1999, the discovery was announced, based on measurements taken by Galileo's near-infrared mapping spectrometer, of carbon dioxide ice on Callisto's surface together with a very tenuous atmosphere of carbon dioxide. Since this gas must constantly leak into space under the action of ultraviolet rays from the Sun, it must be continuously replenished, possibly by venting of carbon dioxide from the interior. This discovery means that all four Galilean moons are now known to have thin atmospheres.

Callisto was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei.


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