The icy satellites of Jupiter, Callisto, Ganymede, Europa and Amalthea have diverse and remarkable characteristics. Their initial compositions were determined by conditions in the circum-Jovian nebula, just as the planets' initial properties were governed by their formation within the circumsolar nebula. The satellites subsequently evolved under the complex interplay of orbital and geophysical processes, especially the effects of orbital resonances, tides, internal differentiation and heat. The history and character of the satellites can be inferred from consideration of the formation of planets and the satellites, from studies of their plausible orbital evolution, from measurements of geophysical properties, especially gravitational and magnetic fields, from observations of the compositions and geological structure of their surfaces and from theoretical modeling of the processes that connect these lines of evidence. The three large icy satellites probably contain significant liquid water: Europa has a deep liquid water ocean under a thin surface layer of ice; Ganymede and Callisto likely have relatively thin liquid water layers deep below their surfaces. Models of formation are challenged by the surprising properties of the outermost and innermost of the group: Callisto is partially differentiated, with rock and ice mixed through much of its interior; and tiny Amalthea also appears to be largely composed of ice. Each of the four moons is fascinating in its own right, and the ensemble provides a powerful set of constraints on the processes that led to their formation and evolution.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)