Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

December 9, 1996

Callisto Full Face
Galileo Project, Voyager Project, JPL, NASA

Explanation: Callisto's surface shows its age. While probably formed at the same time as Io, the difference between the surfaces of these two moons of Jupiter could hardly be greater. Io's surface is young, shows practically no impact craters, and is continually being repaved by the lava exploding from its many large volcanoes. Callisto's surface is old, shows the highest density of impact craters in the Solar System, and harbours no volcanoes or even any large mountains. Callisto's surface is one large ice-field, laced with cracks and craters from billions of years of collisions with interplanetary debris. The high-resolution vertical band in the above mosaic was taken by the robot spacecraft Galileo currently orbiting Jupiter. The rest of the mosaic was compiled from pictures taken by the Voyager spacecraft which passed the Callisto in 1979.

Tomorrow's picture: Comet Halley's Nucleus

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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