Ganymede (moon)

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Ganymede (pronounced /ˈɡænɨmiːd/,[12] the figure of Ganymede in Greek mythology) is a satellite of Jupiter and the largest satellite in the Solar System. It is the seventh moon and third Galilean satellite outward from Jupiter.[13] Completing an orbit in roughly seven days, Ganymede participates in a 1:2:4 orbital resonance with the moons Europa and Io, respectively. It has a diameter of 5,268 km (3270 miles), 8% larger than that of the planet Mercury, but has only 45% of the latter's mass.[14] Its diameter is 2% larger than that of Titan, the second largest moon. It also has the highest mass of all planetary satellites, with 2.02 times the mass of the Earth's moon.[15]

Ganymede is composed of approximately equal amounts of silicate rock and water ice. It is a fully differentiated body with an iron-rich, liquid core. A saltwater ocean is believed to exist nearly 200 km below Ganymede's surface, sandwiched between layers of ice.[16] Its surface is composed of two main types of terrain. Dark regions, saturated with impact craters and dated to four billion years ago, cover about a third of the satellite. Lighter regions, crosscut by extensive grooves and ridges and only slightly less ancient, cover the remainder. The cause of the light terrain's disrupted geology is not fully known, but was likely the result of tectonic activity brought about by tidal heating.[5]

Ganymede is the only satellite in the Solar System known to possess a magnetosphere, likely created through convection within the liquid iron core.[17] The meager magnetosphere is buried within Jupiter's much larger magnetic field and connected to it through open field lines. The satellite has a thin oxygen atmosphere that includes O, O2, and possibly O3 (ozone).[11] Atomic hydrogen is a minor atmospheric constituent. Whether the satellite has an ionosphere associated with its atmosphere is unresolved.[18]

Ganymede's discovery is credited to Galileo Galilei, who was the first to observe it on January 7, 1610.[1][2][3] The satellite's name was soon suggested by astronomer Simon Marius, for the mythological Ganymede, cupbearer of the Greek gods and Zeus's beloved.[19] Beginning with Pioneer 10, spacecraft have been able to examine Ganymede closely.[20] The Voyager probes refined measurements of its size, while the Galileo craft discovered its underground ocean and magnetic field. A new mission to Jupiter's icy moons, the Europa Jupiter System Mission (EJSM), is proposed for a launch in 2020.

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