Earth, Moon, and Planets

, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 11–55 | Cite as

Origin, Bulk Chemical Composition And Physical Structure Of The Galilean Satellites Of Jupiter: A Post-Galileo Analysis

  • A. J. R. Prentice


The origin of Jupiter and the Galilean satellite system is examinedin the light of the new data that has been obtained by the NASA Galileo Project. In particular, special attention is given to a theory of satellite origin which was put forward at the start of the Galileo Mission and on the basis of which several predictions have now been proven successful (Prentice, 1996a–c). These predictions concern the chemical composition of Jupiter's atmosphere and the physical structure of the satellites. According to the proposed theory of satellite origin, each of the Galilean satellites formed by chemical condensation and gravitational accumulation of solid grains within a concentricfamily of orbiting gas rings. These rings were cast off equatorially by the rotating proto-Jovian cloud (PJC) which contracted gravitationally to form Jupiter some 4\(\frac{1}{2}\) billion years ago. The PJC formed from the gas and grains left over from the gas ring that had been shed at Jupiter's orbit by the contracting proto-solar cloud (PSC). Supersonic turbulentconvection provides the means for shedding discrete gas rings.The temperatures Tn of the system of gas rings shed by the PSCand PJC vary with their respective mean orbital radii Rn (n = 0, 1, 2, Ϊ ) according as Tn ∝ Rn-0.9. If the planet Mercury condenses at 1640 K, so accounting for the high density ofthat planet via a process of chemical fractionation between iron and silicates, then Tn at Jupiter's orbit is 158 K. Only 35% of the water vapour condenses out. Thus fractionation between rock and ice, together with an enhancement in the abundance of solids relative to gas which takes place through gravitational sedimentation of solids onto the mean orbit of the gas ring, ensures nearly equal proportions of rock and ice in each of Ganymede and Callisto. Io and Europa condense above the H2O ice point and consist solely of hydrated rock (h-rock). The Ganymedan condensate consists of h-rock and H2O ice. For Callisto, NH3 ice makes up ∼5% of the condensate mass next to h-rock (∼50%) and H2O ice (∼45%).

Detailed thermal and structural models for each of Europa, Ganymedeand Callisto are constructed on the basis of the above initial bulk chemicalcompositions. For Europa (E), a predicted 2-zone model consisting of a dehydrated rock core of mass 0.912ME and a 150 km thick frozen mantle of salty H2O yields a moment-of-inertiacoefficient which matches the Galileo Orbiter gravity measurement. For Ganymede (G), a 3-zone model possessing an inner core of solid FeS and mass ∼0.116MG, and an outer H2O ice mantle of mass ∼0.502MG is needed to explain the gravity data.Ganymede's native magnetic field was formed by thermoremanent magnetization of Fe3O4. A new Callisto (C) model is proposed consisting of a core of mass 0.826MC containing a uniform mixture of h-rock (60% by mass) and H2O and NH3 ices, and capped by a mantle of pure ice. This model may have the capacity to yield a thin layer of liquid NH3ċ2H2O at the core boundary, in line with Galileo's discovery of an induced magnetic field


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. R. Prentice
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsMonash University, Victoria 800, Australia and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of TechnologyPasadenaU.S.A.

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