The largest moon in the solar system

Ganymede is a moon of Jupiter and the largest moon in the Solar System. Completing an orbit in roughly seven days, it is the seventh moon and third Galilean moon from Jupiter. Ganymede participates in a 1:2:4 orbital resonance with the moons Europa and Io, respectively. It is larger in diameter than the planet Mercury but has only about half its mass. It has the highest mass of all planetary satellites with 2.01 times the mass of the Earth's moon.

Ganymede is composed primarily 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 200Â km below Ganymede's surface, sandwiched between layers of ice. Its surface comprises 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.

Ganymede is the only satellite in the Solar System known to possess a magnetosphere, likely created through convection within the liquid iron core. 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). Atomic hydrogen is a minor atmospheric constituent. Whether the satellite has an ionosphere to correspond to its atmosphere is unresolved

Ganymede's discovery is credited to Galileo Galilei, who observed it in 1610. The satellite's name was soon suggested by astronomer Simon Marius, for the mythological Ganymede, cupbearer of the Greek gods and Zeus's beloved. Beginning with Pioneer 10, spacecraft have been able to examine Ganymede closely. 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.

Ganymede receives about 8 rem of radiation per day.

The Sun appears to have been active for 4.6 billion years and has enough fuel to go on for another five billion years or so. At the end of its life, the Sun will start to fuse helium into heavier elements and begin to swell up, ultimately growing so large that it will swallow the Earth. After a billion years as a red giant, it will suddenly collapse into a white dwarf -- the final end product of a star like ours. It may take a trillion years to cool off completely.

Facts about Ganymede

  • Age: Ganymede is about 4.5 billion years old, about the same age as Jupiter.
  • Distance from Jupiter: Ganymede is the seventh moon and third Galilean satellite outward from Jupiter, orbiting at about 665,000 miles (1.070 million kilometers). It takes Ganymede about seven Earth-days to orbit Jupiter
  • Size: Ganymede's mean radius is 1,635 miles (2,631.2 km). Although Ganymede is larger than Mercury it only has half its mass, classifying it as low density
  • Temperature: Daytime temperatures on the surface average minus 171 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 297 F, and night temperatures drop to -193C. In 1996, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope found evidence of a thin oxygen atmosphere. However, it is too thin to support life as we know it; it is unlikely that any living organisms inhabit Ganymede.

The above information was sourced from Wikipedia