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.

2001 January 2

Jupiter, Europa, and Callisto
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, Cassini Project, NASA

Explanation: As the robot Cassini spacecraft rounds Jupiter on its way toward Saturn, it has taken a sequence of images of the gas giant with its four largest moons. Previously released images have highlighted Ganymede and Io. Pictured above are the two remaining Galilean satellites: Europa and Callisto. Europa is the bright moon superposed near Jupiter's Great Red Spot, while Callisto is the dark moon near the frame edge. Callisto is so dark that it would be hard to see here if its brightness was not digitally enhanced. Recent evidence indicates that both moons hold salt-water seas under surface ice that might be home to extra-terrestrial life. By noting the times that moons disappeared and reappeared behind Jupiter in 1676, Ole Roemer was able to make the first accurate estimation of the speed of light.

Tomorrow's picture: Interstellar Lagoon

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.