During the two year Galileo Europa Mission (GEM), NASA's Galileo spacecraft will focus intensively on Jupiter's intriguing moon, Europa. This montage shows samples of some of the features that will be imaged during eight successive orbits. The images in this montage are in order of increasing orbit from the upper left (orbit 11) to the lower right (orbit 19).
DESCRIPTIONS AND APPROXIMATE RESOLUTIONS Triple bands and dark spots
1.6 kilometers/pixelConamara Chaos
1.6 kilometers/pixelMannan'an Crater
1.6 kilometers/ pixelCilix
1.6 kilometers/pixelAgenor Linea and Thrace Macula
2 kilometers/pixelSouth polar terrain
2 kilometers/pixelRhadamanthys Linea
1.6 kilometers/pixelEuropa plume search
1. Triple bands and dark spots were the focus of some images from Galileo's eleventh orbit of Jupiter. Triple bands are multiple ridges with dark deposits along the outer margins. Some extend for thousands of kilometers across Europa's icy surface. They are cracks in the ice sheet and indicate the great stresses imposed on Europa by tides raised by Jupiter, as well as Europa's neighboring moons, Ganymede and Io. The dark spots or "lenticulae" are spots of localized disruption.
2. The Conamara Chaos region reveals icy plates which have broken up, moved, and rafted into new positions. This terrain suggests that liquid water or ductile ice was present near the surface. On Galileo's twelfth orbit of Jupiter, sections of this region with resolutions as high as 10 meters per picture element will be obtained.
3. Mannann'an Crater is a feature newly discovered by Galileo in June 1996. Color and high resolution images (to 40 meters per picture element) from Galileo's fourteenth orbit of Jupiter will offer a close look at the crater and help characterize how impacts affect the icy surface of this moon.
4. Cilix, a large mound about 1.5 kilometers high, is the center of Europa's coordinate system. Its concave top and what may be flow like features to the southwest of the mound are especially intriguing. The origin of this feature is unknown at present. Color, stereo, and high resolution images (to 65 meters per picture element) from Galileo's fifteenth orbit of Jupiter will offer new insights and resolve questions about its origin.
5. Images of Agenor Linea (white arrow) and Thrace Macula (black arrow) with resolutions as high as 30 meters per picture element will be obtained during Galileo's sixteenth orbit of Jupiter. Agenor is an unusually bright lineament on Europa. Is the brightness due to new ice, and if so, does it represent recent activity? Could the dark region of Thrace Macula be a flow from ice volcanism?
6. Images of Europa's south polar terrain obtained during Galileo's seventeenth orbit of Jupiter will offer insights into the processes which are active in this region. Is the ice crust thicker near Europa's poles than near the equator? The prominent dark line running from upper left to lower right through the center of this image is Astypalaea Linea. It is a fault about the length of the San Andreas fault in California and is the largest such fault known on Europa. Images with resolutions of 48 meters per picture element will be obtained to examine its geologic structure.
7. This long lineament, Rhadamanthys Linea. is spotted with dark "freckles". Are these freckle features formed by icy volcanism? Is this an early form of a triple band? Stereo and high resolution (to 46 meters per picture element) obtained during Galileo's eighteenth orbit of Jupiter may indicate whether the lineament is the result of volcanic processes or is formed by other surface processes.
8. During Galileo's nineteenth orbit of Jupiter, images of Europa will be taken with very low sun illuminations, similar to taking a picture at sunset or sunrise. The object will be to search for backlit plumes issuing from icy volcanic vents. Such plumes would be direct evidence of a liquid ocean beneath the ice. Resolutions will be as high as 40 meters per picture element. This picture was simulated image from Galileo data obtained during the spacecraft's second orbit of Jupiter in September 1996.
North is to the top of the pictures. During orbit 13, the Galileo spacecraft was behind the sun from our vantage point on Earth so it did not obtain or transmit data from that orbit. The left two images in the bottom row were obtained by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1979; the remaining images were obtained by the Solid State Imaging (SSI) system on NASA's Galileo spacecraft in 1996.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA manages the Galileo mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. JPL is an operating division of California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
This image and other images and data received from Galileo are posted on the World Wide Web, on the Galileo mission home page at URL http://galileo.jpl.nasa.gov. Background information and educational context for the images can be found at URL http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/galileo/sepo. Image Credit: NASA/JPL