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Published on June 14th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie3
The Moons Of Jupiter: The Solar System Within The Solar System
The Moons Of Jupiter
The moons of Jupiter are numerous, some of them are small, others are tiny, barely more than several metres across. While four rival small planets and dwarf our own satellite, the Moon.
However, scale is perhaps the least fascinating aspect of Jupiter’s satellites. Far more intriguing is the possibility that some moons may harbour life. It is this facet that excites many people and some day we shall find an answer to this most burning of questions.
Jupiter has 50 moons which have been identified and classified by NASA. There are 14 more that are provisionally called moons so that number could rise in the future.
The Solar System Within The Solar System
The largest of all the planets in the Solar System, Jupiter has managed to attract many moons within its confines. Like the other gas and ice giants, the Jovian planets, Jupiter has created a miniature solar system within our Solar System.
The pattern of our star, the Sun, followed by the smaller terrestrial planets, the larger gas and ice giants and finally smaller objects such as dwarf planets is replicated on Jupiter.
Jupiter mimics the Sun, while the moons close to it are relatively small like the terrestrial planets, of which Earth is one. Farther out, in place of the four gas and ice giants are Jupiter’s Galilean satellites, its planet-sized moons.
The Moons Of Jupiter: The Inner Moons
Jupiter has four satellites orbiting it that resemble the position of the terrestrial planets, albeit on a much smaller scale.
Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea and Thebe are the names of the four inner satellites.
Metis is the innermost satellite of Jupiter. It orbits 128,000 kilometres (80,000 miles) from the planet’s surface taking little more than seven hours to complete an orbit around the Jovian planet.
Adrastea is the next satellite. It is the smallest of the inner moons at only 16 km (ten miles) across. Like Metis, Adrastea only takes a little over seven hours to complete an orbit at a distance of 129,000 km (80,600 miles).
Amalthea, or Jupiter V, as it is sometimes called, is the largest of the inner moons at 250 kilometres (150 miles) across. Discovered nearly twelve decades ago, it was the last planetary satellite to be found using the human eye. New sightings are now made using photographs rather than by directly looking through powerful telescopes.
The moon orbits Jupiter at a distance of 180,000 kilometres (110,000 miles) while a complete trip around the planet takes Amalthea 11 hours.
The outermost inner moon of Jupiter is called Thebe. It orbits the gas giant from a distance of 220,000 kilometres (140,000 miles). It takes 16 hours for Thebe to complete a trip around the Jovian planet.
The Galilean Moons
By far the most amazing satellites of Jupiter are its four planet-sized moons, the Galilean satellites. These moons of Jupiter are the size of the dwarf planets, such as Ceres and Pluto as well as the planet Mercury.
They are named after their discoverer, Galileo Galilei, who spotted them in 1610. This discovery also helped to cement Galileo’s theory that the Ptolemaic Earth-centred Universe was a fiction.
Yellow Magpie has taken a much closer look at each of the Galilean moons. Just click on the linked names of the satellites.
The Innermost Moon: Lo
Lo is an amazingly dynamic world that is one of the most volcanically active in the Solar System. Constantly, undergoing changes brought about by pouring lava, its surface is in a perpetual flux of renewal.
Lo is an amazingly colourful world, dominated by shades of yellows and greens. While the fiery red lava frequently shows as it bursts from deep below the surface.
It is also responsible for Jupiter’s transmissions which can be heard from Earth. Check out Yellow Magpie’s post on Jupiter for further insight into this phenomenon.
Europa: The Ice Moon
Europa is a perfectly smooth, ice-encrusted world that has the most potential for harbouring life in the Solar System. Deep below its icy fortress, it is believed to contain a massive ocean of water that may sustain life. This is the place that many scientists maintain should be top priority for exploration.
The largest moon in the Solar System, Ganymede is bigger than the planet Mercury. The satellite is composed of a combination of rock and frozen ice-water. It’s sheer scale is perhaps it most astounding characteristic but it could hold more secrets that await future discovery.
Callisto is the farthest away from Jupiter of the Galilean satellites. Unlike the other three moons, Callisto is heavily pockmarked from impacts that have scoured its surface with a myriad of craters. Like Ganymede, it is believed to be composed of ice and rock.
Highly Recommended Reading
Check out Yellow Magpie’s Jupiter: The Local Gas Giant Of The Solar System for more insight into the largest planet in the Solar System.
You may also like to take a gander at The Solar System And Beyond: A Guide To The Cosmos.
Cosmos is a highly recommended book. It contains large, full-page pictures of the asteroids and writing on the subject by the highly competent author, Giles Sparrow.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Cosmos from here.
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain: Cosmos here.
For Germany: Cosmos.
For France: Cosmos.