[astronews] Fwd: Surprising Jupiter

  • From: Burness Ansell <ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Astronomy Newsletter <astronews@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 19 Sep 2003 17:04:24 -0700 (PDT)

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Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2003 15:02:16 -0500
From: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory <info@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
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To: ki0ar@xxxxxxxxx
Subject: Surprising Jupiter
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Spotlight Feature                                                     
       September 18, 2003

Surprising Jupiter

After orbiting Jupiter 34 times and surviving four times the amount of
radiation it was design to withstand, the resilient Galileo spacecraft
is finally at the very end of its 14-year mission. To avoid even the
most remote possibility of colliding with a pristine moon in the
jovian system, the out-of-fuel spacecraft will dive into Jupiter on
Sunday, Sept. 21, 2003.

Since its launch in 1989, the sturdy spacecraft traveled more than 4.6
billion kilometers (almost 2.8 billion miles), about the equivalent of
seven times the distance between Earth and Jupiter. Despite
communication problems and a temperamental tape recorder, Galileo
returned 30 gigabytes of data, including 14,000 pictures. 

This wealth of information drastically expanded our understanding of
the solar system's biggest planet and its moons. The mission was
possible because it drew its power from two long-lasting radioisotope
thermoelectric generators provided by the Department of Energy.

Asteroids Unveiled

The exciting list of discoveries started even before Galileo was able
to get a close glimpse of Jupiter. As it crossed the asteroid belt in
October 1991, Galileo snapped images of Gaspra, returning the first
ever close-up image of an asteroid. Less then a year later, the
spacecraft got up close and personal with yet another asteroid, Ida.
Images from Ida revealed the asteroid has its own little "moon,"
Dactyl, the first known moon of an asteroid. 

Location, Location

In 1994 the spacecraft was in the right place at the right time and
made the only direct observation of a comet impacting a planet. It
took images of fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashing into
Jupiter. Images of the impact, which was not visible from Earth,
helped scientists better understand this type of event. 

At Jupiter

Galileo began its tour of the jovian system in December 1995.
Carefully designed orbits allowed the spacecraft to observe Jupiter's
atmosphere, revealing numerous large thunderstorms many times larger
than those on Earth, with lightning strikes up to 1,000 times more
powerful than terrestrial lightning. Data collected by the descent
probe made the first in-place studies of the planet's clouds and
winds, and it furthered scientists' understanding of how Jupiter
evolved. The probe also made measurements designed to assess the
degree of evolution of Jupiter compared to the Sun.

As the first spacecraft in long-term residence in jovian orbit,
Galileo also successfully studied the global structure and dynamics of
Jupiter's magnetic field. Galileo also determined that Jupiter's ring
system is formed by dust kicked up as interplanetary meteoroids smash
into the planet's four small inner moons. Data also showed that
Jupiter's outermost ring is actually made up of two rings, one
embedded within another.

Moons' Wonders

Galileo extensively investigated the geologic diversity of Jupiter's
four largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa. Stunning images
revealed the contrasting and changing surfaces of these moons.

Io has extensive volcanic activity, which is continually modifying the
surface. The heat and the frequency of eruption can be 100 times more
than that of Earth, something reminiscent of Earth's early days. The
similarities make Io an ideal laboratory for the study of what Earth
was like more than 3 billion years ago. 

The moon Europa, Galileo unveiled, could be hiding a salty ocean up to
100 kilometers (62 miles) deep underneath its frozen surface. Images
also reveal ice "rafts" the size of cities that have broken and
drifted apart to create a scalloped and broken surface. There are also
indications of volcanic ice flows, with liquid water flowing across
the surface. These discoveries are particularly intriguing since
liquid water is a key ingredient in the process that may lead to the
formation of life.

The biggest discovery surrounding Ganymede was the presence of a
magnetic field, the first moon of any planet known to have one. Images
of this moon featured a faulted and fractured surface that
demonstrated high tectonic activity. Like Europa and Io, Ganymede has
a metallic core. Galileo magnetic data also provided evidence that
Ganymede might have a liquid-saltwater layer as well.

Galileo determined that, while Callisto doesn't have a metallic core,
its surface shows evidence of extensive erosion. Data collected raise
the question of whether Callisto's surface may also hide an ocean.

Last Dance

Galileo's own discovery of a likely ocean hidden under Europa's
surface raises the possibility of life there and concern about
protecting it. For that reason, in its final victory lap the Galileo
spacecraft will dive into the atmosphere of the gaseous planet and
disintegrate. Predictably, some of the spacecraft findings raised
intriguing questions that will have to be answered by future mission.
But Galileo Galilei, the first modern astronomer, would be immensely
proud of the discoveries made by the spacecraft that carries his name.

Media contact:


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<td>
<P><A href="http://jpl.convio.net/site/R?i=3h9i1GKmlhFO-3BCLCXxIg..";>Spotlight 
Feature</A>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;
 September 18, 2003</P>
<P><STRONG><IMG alt="" 
src="http://jpl.convio.net/images/content/pagebuilder/10213.jpg"; align=right 
border=0>Surprising Jupiter<BR><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial" face=Arial>Busy 
Galileo spacecraft showed jovian system is full of 
surprises</FONT></STRONG><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial" face=Arial> 
</FONT><BR></P>
<P>After orbiting Jupiter 34 times and surviving four times the amount of 
radiation it was design to withstand, the resilient Galileo spacecraft is 
finally at the very end of its 14-year mission. To avoid even the most remote 
possibility of colliding with a pristine moon in the jovian system, the 
out-of-fuel spacecraft will dive into Jupiter on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2003.</P>
<P><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" face="Arial, 
Helvetica, sans-serif" size=2>Since its launch in 1989, the sturdy spacecraft 
traveled more than 4.6 billion kilometers (almost 2.8 billion miles), about the 
equivalent of seven times the distance between Earth and Jupiter. Despite 
communication problems and a temperamental tape recorder, Galileo returned 30 
gigabytes of data, including 14,000 pictures. </FONT></P>
<P><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" face="Arial, 
Helvetica, sans-serif" size=2>This wealth of information drastically expanded 
our understanding of the solar system's biggest planet and its moons. The 
mission was possible because it drew its power from two long-lasting 
radioisotope thermoelectric generators provided by the Department of 
Energy.</FONT><BR></P>
<P><STRONG>Asteroids Unveiled<BR><BR></STRONG><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial, 
Helvetica, sans-serif" face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size=2>The exciting 
list of discoveries started even before Galileo was able to get a close glimpse 
of Jupiter. As it crossed the asteroid belt in October 1991, Galileo snapped 
images of Gaspra, returning the first ever close-up image of an asteroid. Less 
then a year later, the spacecraft got up close and personal with yet another 
asteroid, Ida. Images from Ida revealed the asteroid has its own little "moon," 
Dactyl, the first known moon of an asteroid.</FONT><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: 
arial, helvetica, verdana, sans serif" face="arial, helvetica, verdana, sans 
serif" size=2> </FONT></P>
<P><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: arial, helvetica, verdana, sans serif" 
face="arial, helvetica, verdana, sans serif" size=2><STRONG>Location, 
Location</STRONG></FONT></P>
<P><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial" face=Arial>In 1994 the spacecraft was in 
the right place at the right time and made the only direct observation of a 
comet impacting a planet. It took images of fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 
crashing into Jupiter. Images of the impact, which was not visible from Earth, 
helped scientists better understand this type of event. </FONT></P>
<P><STRONG>At Jupiter</STRONG></P>
<P>Galileo began its tour of the jovian system in December 1995. Carefully 
designed orbits allowed the spacecraft to observe Jupiter's atmosphere, 
revealing numerous large thunderstorms many times larger than those on Earth, 
with lightning strikes up to 1,000 times more powerful than terrestrial 
lightning. Data collected by the descent probe made the first in-place studies 
of the planet's clouds and winds, and it furthered scientists' understanding of 
how Jupiter evolved. The probe also made measurements designed to assess the 
degree of evolution of Jupiter compared to the Sun.</P>
<P><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" face="Arial, 
Helvetica, sans-serif" size=2>As the first spacecraft in long-term residence in 
jovian orbit, Galileo also successfully studied the global structure and 
dynamics of Jupiter's magnetic field. Galileo also determined that Jupiter's 
ring system is formed by dust kicked up as interplanetary meteoroids smash into 
the planet's four small inner moons. Data also showed that Jupiter's outermost 
ring is actually made up of two rings, one embedded within 
another.</FONT><BR></P>
<P><STRONG>Moons' Wonders</STRONG></P>
<P>Galileo extensively investigated the geologic diversity of Jupiter's four 
largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa. Stunning images revealed the 
contrasting and changing surfaces of these moons. </P>
<P><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" face="Arial, 
Helvetica, sans-serif" size=2>Io has extensive volcanic activity, which is 
continually modifying the surface. The heat and the frequency of eruption can 
be 100 times more than that of Earth, something reminiscent of Earth's early 
days. The similarities make Io an ideal laboratory for the study of what Earth 
was like more than 3 billion years ago. </FONT></P>
<P><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" face="Arial, 
Helvetica, sans-serif" size=2>The moon Europa, Galileo unveiled, could be 
hiding a salty ocean up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) deep underneath its frozen 
surface. Images also reveal ice "rafts" the size of cities that have broken and 
drifted apart to create a scalloped and broken surface. There are also 
indications of volcanic ice flows, with liquid water flowing across the 
surface. These discoveries are particularly intriguing since liquid water is a 
key ingredient in the process that may lead to the formation of life.</FONT></P>
<P><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" face="Arial, 
Helvetica, sans-serif" size=2>The biggest discovery surrounding Ganymede was 
the presence of a magnetic field, the first moon of any planet known to have 
one. Images of this moon featured a faulted and fractured surface that 
demonstrated high tectonic activity. Like Europa and Io, Ganymede has a 
metallic core. Galileo magnetic data also provided evidence that Ganymede might 
have a liquid-saltwater layer as well.</FONT></P>
<P><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" face="Arial, 
Helvetica, sans-serif" size=2>Galileo determined that, while Callisto doesn't 
have a metallic core, its surface shows evidence of extensive erosion. Data 
collected raise the question of whether Callisto's surface may also hide an 
ocean.<BR></FONT></P>
<P><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: arial, helvetica, verdana, sans serif" 
face="arial, helvetica, verdana, sans serif" size=2><STRONG>Last 
Dance</STRONG><BR><BR>Galileo's own discovery of a likely ocean hidden under 
Europa's surface raises the possibility of life there and concern about 
protecting it. For that reason, in its final victory lap the Galileo spacecraft 
will dive into the atmosphere of the gaseous planet and disintegrate. 
Predictably, some of the spacecraft findings raised intriguing questions that 
will have to be answered by future mission. But Galileo Galilei, the first 
modern astronomer, would be immensely proud of the discoveries made by the 
spacecraft that carries his name. </FONT></P>
<P><FONT style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial" face=Arial>Media contact: JPL/Carolina 
Martinez (818) 354-9382</FONT></P><img 
src="http://jpl.convio.net/site/PixelServer?j=MwxTEO1LZtdO-3BCLCXxIg.."; 
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