When it comes to the multitude of moons that exist in our solar system, we often hear a lot about the few big stars of today's scientific stage: Titan, Europa, Enceladus, Pluto's most recently-discovered companions Kerberos and Styx, Mars' moon Phobos... and of course our very own lovely moon, The Moon. But in the vast pantheon of heavenly satellites there's one that looms above all the rest: Ganymede, the seventh moon of Jupiter and the largest moon in the entire solar system.
But just because Ganymede doesn't make the headlines as often as its smaller cousins doesn't mean it lacks fans in the scientific community, as evidenced by a brand-new geologic map released today by the USGS.
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The comprehensive (and very colorful) map is the result of a project led by Geoffrey Collins of Wheaton College, and uses the most detailed images obtained of Ganymede by NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 and Galileo spacecraft, executing imaging flybys of Jupiter and its moons in 1979, and the late 90s and early 2000s, respectively.
Using colors to differentiate the incredibly varied terrain on Ganymede, the illustrative map provides planetary scientists with the first solid evidence for distinct periods in the massive moon's history: ancient, heavy cratering; tectonic upheaval; and then more recent settling and geologic decline.
Watch a 360-degree rotation of Ganymede and its new map below: