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This is a composite image of three of the Galilean satillites.
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NASA

Evolution of Icy Moons

The three moons in this picture show three possible stages in the history of an icy moon. The moon can be cold. In that case, the surface is unchanged and very cratered. This case may be like Callisto, the top moon in the picture.

If there was some heat inside, then the surface may change and will not be as cratered. This case may be like that of Ganymede, the moon in the middle of the picture. Ganymede has many craters, but also grooves which indicate that the surface flowed at some point in time.

If the heating took place for a long time, then there may be many changes on the surface. This case may be like that of Europa, the third moon in the picture. The surface of Europa has lots of cracks and almost no craters.

Many moons in the solar system are somewhere between Ganymede and Europa in their history. Examples of these moons include Dione, Rhea, Enceladus, Tethys, Ariel, Umbriel, Miranda, Titania, Oberon, and Triton.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA