Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Scientists Discover Ganymede Has A Lumpy Interior

Ganymede
Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 16, 2004
Scientists have discovered irregular lumps beneath the icy surface of Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede. These irregular masses may be rock formations, supported by Ganymede's icy shell for billions of years.

This discovery comes nearly a year after the orchestrated demise of NASA's Galileo spacecraft into Jupiter's atmosphere and more than seven years after the data were collected.

Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and the University of California, Los Angeles, report their findings in a paper that will appear in the Aug. 13 issue of the journal Science.

The findings have caused scientists to rethink what the interior of Ganymede might contain. The reported bulges reside in the interior, and there are no visible surface features associated with them.

This tells scientists that the ice is probably strong enough, at least near the surface, to support these possible rock masses from sinking to the bottom of the ice for billions of years. But this anomaly could also be caused by piles of rock at the bottom of the ice.

"The anomalies could be large concentrations of rock at or underneath the ice surface. They could also be in a layer of mixed ice and rock below the surface with variations in the amount of rock," said Dr. John Anderson, a scientist and the paper's lead author at JPL.

"If there is a liquid water ocean inside Ganymede's outer ice layer there might be variations in its depth with piles of rock at the ocean bottom. There could be topographic variations in a hidden rocky surface underlying a deep outer icy shell. There are many possibilities, and we need to do more studies."

Dr. Gerald Schubert, co-author at UCLA, said "Although we don't yet have anything definitive about the depth at this point, we did not expect Ganymede's ice shell to be strong enough to support these lumpy mass concentrations."

"Thus, we expect that the irregularities would be close to the surface where the ice is coldest and strongest, or at the bottom of the thick ice shell resting on the underlying rock. It would really be a surprise if these masses were deep and in the middle of the ice shell."

Ganymede has three main layers. A sphere of metallic iron at the center (the core), a spherical shell of rock (mantle) surrounding the core, and a spherical shell of mostly ice surrounding the rock shell and the core.

The ice shell on the outside is very thick, maybe 800 kilometers (497 miles) thick. The surface is the very top of the ice shell. Though it is mostly ice, the ice shell might contain some rock mixed in.

Scientists believe there must be a fair amount of rock in the ice near the surface. Variations in this amount of rock may be the source of these possible rock formations.

Scientists stumbled on the results by studying Doppler measurements of Ganymede's gravity field during Galileo's second flyby of the moon in 1996. Scientists were measuring the effect of the moon's gravity on the spacecraft as it flew by. They found unexpected variations.

"Believe it or not, it took us this long to straighten out the anomaly question, mostly because we were analyzing all 31 close flybys for all four of Jupiter's large moons," said Anderson.

"In the end, we concluded that there is only one flyby, the second flyby of Ganymede, where mass anomalies are evident."

Scientists have seen mass concentration anomalies on one other moon before, Earth's, during the first lunar orbiter missions in the 1960s. The lunar mass concentrations during the Apollo moon mission era were due to lava in flat basins.

However, scientists cannot draw any similarities between these mass concentrations and what they see at Ganymede.

"The fact that these mass anomalies can be detected with just flybys is significant for future missions," said Dr. Torrence Johnson, former Galileo project scientist.

"With this type of information you could make detailed gravity and altitude maps that allow us to actually map structures within the ice crust or on the rocky surface."

"Knowing more about the interior of Ganymede raises the level of importance of looking for gravity anomalies around Jupiter's moons and gives us something to look for. This might be something NASA's proposed Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter Mission could probe into deeper."

The paper was co-authored by Dr. Robert A. Jacobson and Eunice L. Lau of JPL, with Dr. William B. Moore and Jennifer L. Palguta of UCLA.

Related Links
Galileo Mission at NASA
SpaceDaily
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

A Jovian Load Of New Moons
Waterloo - Jun 04, 2003
So far this year, Jupiter has gained 21 new distant satellites, with the most recent announcement of satellite S/2003 J 21 on June 3rd at the annual Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) meeting in Waterloo (ON). This puts Jupiter far ahead of the all other planets, with 61 known moons.



Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only






Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.