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Callisto (moon)

Discovered byS. Marius
G. Galilei
Discovered in1610
Orbital characteristics
Mean radius1.883×106 km
Revolution period16d 16h 32.2m
Is a satellite ofJupiter
Physical characteristics
Equatorial diameter4806 km
Surface area7.2 ×107 km2
Mass1.076×1023 kg
Mean density1.851 g/cm3
Surface gravity1.24 m/s2
Rotation period16d 16h 32.2m
Axial tilt°
Surface temp.
Atmospheric characteristics
Atmospheric pressuretrace
Carbon dioxide100%

Callisto is a moon of the planet Jupiter, discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei. It is the third-largest moon in the solar system, about the same size as the planet Mercury.

This picture of Callisto was taken by Voyager 2 from a distance of 2,318,000 kilometers (1,438,000 miles). Callisto is covered with bright spots which are meteorite impact craters. Scientists believe that heavily cratered terrains like these on Callisto are indicative of ancient planetary surfaces. click here for full sized image

Callisto is the most heavily cratered satellite in the solar system. In fact, impact craters and associated concentric rings are about the only features to be found on Callisto; there are no large mountains. This is probably due to the icy nature of its surface, with the largest craters and mountains being erased by the flow of the icy crust over geological time. Two enormous concentric ring impact basins are found on Callisto; Valhalla[?] is the largest with a bright central region that is 600 kilometers in diameter and rings extending to 3000 kilometers in diameter, and the second-largest impact basin is Asgard[?] measuring about 1600 kilometers in diameter. Another interesting feature is Gipul Catena, a long series of impact craters lined up in a straight line across Callisto's surface. This was probably caused by an object that was tidally disrupted as it passed close to Jupiter (much like Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9) before it impacted. Callisto's crust is thought to be approximately 4 billion years old, dating back almost to the formation of the solar system.

Its battered surface lies on top of an icy layer that is about 200 kilometers thick. Beneath the crust lies a salty ocean in excess of 10 kilometers thick. The ocean was discovered from studies of the magnetic fields around Jupiter and its moons. It was found that Callisto's magnetic field varies (flows in various directions at different times) in response to the background magnetic field generated by Jupiter; this suggests a layer of highly conductive fluid within Callisto. Another piece of evidence supporting the existence of an ocean under Callisto's crust is the fact that the surface of the moon directly opposite the massive impact crater Valhalla shows no fracturing or disrupted terrain, as the antipodes to similar massive impacts on the Moon and Mercury do; a liquid layer would serve to damp out the seismic waves before they could travel through Callisto to focus on the opposite side of its crust.

Beneath the ocean, Callisto seems to have a strange interior that is not entirely uniform and does not vary dramatically. Galileo probe data suggest that the interior is composed of compressed rock and ice, with the percentage of rock increasing with depth due to partial settling of its constituents. Callisto has the lowest density of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter, only 1.86 gm/cm3, and is about 40% ice and 60% rock/iron. Titan and Triton are probably similar in composition.

Callisto has a very tenuous atmosphere composed of carbon dioxide.

Unlike neighbouring Ganymede with its complex terrain, there is little evidence of tectonic activity on Callisto. While Callisto is very similar in bulk properties to Ganymede, it apparently has a much simpler geological history. The different geologic histories of the two has been an important problem for planetary scientists. "Simple" Callisto is a good reference for comparison with other more complex worlds and it may represent what the other Galilean moons were like early in their history.

Callisto orbits just outside Jupiter's main radiation belt.

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