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  • Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System and has at least 16 large moons and even more very small ones.

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  • Four of Jupiter’s moons, or satellites, can be seen using a small telescope or even a pair of binoculars.

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  • The four moons were first seen and described by Galileo four hundred years ago, in 1610.

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  • They were later given the names, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, all of which are names taken from Greek mythology.

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  • They cannot be seen with the naked eye.
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Figure 1. Jupiter and the 4 Galilean moons seen through a small telescope

  • Of these four moons Io is the moon which is closest to Jupiter and, like all the other moons, orbits around the planet.

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  • “Moon” is another word for “satellite”, which means a body in outer space which revolves, or turns around another body.

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  • Io is a little larger than our own moon, with a diameter of about 2262 miles (3643 kilometres) and is made of rock.

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  • Io orbits Jupiter at a distance of about 262,094 miles (421,800 kilometres) from the planet.

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  • Io orbits round Jupiter at a speed of 38,764 miles(62,423 kilometres) per hour which is faster than the other moons. The speed of its orbit is due to both Europa and Ganymede exerting a pull of gravity on Io.

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  • Io orbits Jupiter four times for every single orbit that Ganymede makes and every two orbits that Europa makes.

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  • She travels 1645,796 miles (2650,236 kilometres)in her orbit and takes only 1.7 of our earth days to complete a single orbit.

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  • As Io turns round the planet, she keeps the same face turned towards Jupiter, so in the course of one orbit, Io only turns once on her axis.

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  • Several NASA space missions to Jupiter have given close up photographs and information about these “Galilean moons”, such as this photograph taken from Apollo Mission 4.
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Figure 2. Images of the four Galilean moons from the Apollo spacecraft.

  • The edge of Jupiter can be seen in the bottom right.  Io is the large moon in the bottom left, closest to Jupiter.

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  • Io is so close to Jupiter that the pull of Jupiter’s gravity causes continual disturbance to the moon’s surface.

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  • Volcanic eruptions constantly cover the surface of Io with new coatings of sulphuric lava.

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  • Io is the most volcanically active body in the whole solar system.

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  • The volcanoes are driven by silicate magma.

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  • With volcanoes constantly erupting and spilling out hot lava, Io’s surface is so hot that any moisture is driven off it.

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  • Because of the constant volcanic eruptions, the appearance of Io is constantly changing.

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  • NASA describes Io as “Looking like a giant pizza covered with melted cheese and splotches of tomato and ripe olives”.
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Figure 3. A NASA image of Io's surface

  • Io, in Greek mythology, was a Princess of Argos.  She was loved by Zeus, the sky god of the Greeks (known to the Romans as Jupiter).

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  • Zeus’ wife, Hera (known to the Romans as Juno) was jealous of Io, so Zeus turned Io into a young cow to escape from Hera, but Hera set Argus, a herdsman with 100 eyes, to watch Io.

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  • Zeus (Jupiter) killed Argus and Hera (Juno) then sent a gadfly, an insect that stings cattle, to drive Io away.

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  • In the heavens, however, the moon Io no

 

Useful Websites

Really nice overview of the moon

Lots of pictures

 
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