Planetary Peek-a-Boo

Science Scope, February 2009 | Go to article overview

Planetary Peek-a-Boo


NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has caught an image of Jupiter's moon Ganymede just before it ducks behind the giant planet. Ganymede completes an orbit around Jupiter every seven days. Because Ganymede's orbit is tilted nearly edge-on to Earth, it routinely can be seen passing in front of and disappearing behind its giant host, only to reemerge later.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Composed of rock and ice, Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system. It is even larger than the planet Mercury. But Ganymede looks like a dirty snowball next to Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. Jupiter is so big that only part of its southern hemisphere can be seen in this image.

Hubble's view is so sharp that astronomers can see features on Ganymede's surface, most notably the white impact crater, Tros, and its system of rays, bright streaks of material blasted from the crater. Tros and its ray system are roughly the width of Arizona.

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