More than 400 years after its discovery by astronomer Galileo Galilei, the largest moon in the solar system - Jupiter's moon Ganymede - has finally claimed a spot on the map.
A group of scientists led by
"This map illustrates the incredible variety of geological features on Ganymede and helps to make order from the apparent chaos of its complex surface," said
Since its discovery in
According to the scientists who have constructed this map, three major geologic periods have been identified for Ganymede that involve the dominance of impact cratering, then tectonic upheaval, followed by a decline in geologic activity. The map, which illustrates surface features, such as furrows, grooves and impact craters, allows scientists to decipher distinct geologic time periods for an object in the outer solar system for the first time.
"The highly detailed, colorful map confirmed a number of outstanding scientific hypotheses regarding Ganymede's geologic history, and also disproved others," said
The Ganymede global geologic map will enable researchers to compare the geologic characters of other icy satellite moons, because almost any type of feature that is found on other icy satellites has a similar feature somewhere on Ganymede.
"The surface of Ganymede is more than half as large as all the land area on Earth, so there is a wide diversity of locations to choose from," Collins said. "Ganymede also shows features that are ancient alongside much more recently formed features, adding historical diversity in addition to geographic diversity."
Amateur astronomers can observe Ganymede (with binoculars) in the evening sky this month, as Jupiter is in opposition and easily visible.
The project was funded by
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