The diversity of worlds in our solar system (climate and geology)…
The Great Red Spot is a persistent high-pressure region in the atmosphere of Jupiter, producing an anticyclonic storm 22° south of the planet’s equator. It has been continuously observed for 188 years, since 1830. Earlier observations from 1665 to 1713 are believed to be of the same storm; if this is correct, it has existed for at least 350 years. Such storms are not uncommon within the turbulent atmospheres of gas giants.
With over 400 active volcanoes, Io is the most geologically active object in the Solar System. This extreme geologic activity is the result of tidal heating from friction generated within Io’s interior as it is pulled between Jupiter and the other Galilean satellites—Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
Europa has the smoothest surface of any known solid object in the Solar System. The apparent youth and smoothness of the surface have led to the hypothesis that a water ocean exists beneath it, which could conceivably harbor extraterrestrial life.
Neptune, the eighth and farthest planet from the sun, has the strongest winds in the solar system. At high altitudes speeds can exceed 1,100 mph. That is 1.5 times faster than the speed of sound. In 1989, NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft made the first and only close-up observations of Neptune.
Ganymede is the largest and most massive moon of Jupiter and in the Solar System.
Possessing a metallic core, it has the lowest moment of inertia factor of any solid body in the Solar System and is the only moon known to have a magnetic field. (Sounds of Ganymede’s magnetosphere).
Saturn’s hexagon is a persisting hexagonal cloud pattern around the north pole of Saturn, located at about 78°N. The sides of the hexagon are about 13,800 km (8,600 mi) long, which is more than the diameter of Earth (about 12,700 km (7,900 mi)).
Miranda’s surface has patchwork regions of broken terrain indicating intense geological activity in Miranda’s past, and is criss-crossed by huge canyons. It also has the largest known cliff in the Solar System, Verona Rupes, which has a height of over 5 km (3.1 mi).
Some of Miranda’s terrain is possibly less than 100 million years old based on crater counts, which suggests that Miranda may still be geologically active today.
Enceladus is the sixth-largest moon of Saturn. It is about 500 kilometers (310 mi) in diameter, about a tenth of that of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
Evidence of liquid water on Enceladus began to accumulate in 2005, when scientists observed plumes containing water vapor spewing from its south polar surface, with jets moving 250 kg of water vapor every second at up to 2,189 km/h (1,360 mph) into space.
Titan is the largest moon of Saturn. It is the only moon known to have a dense atmosphere, and the only object in space, other than Earth, where clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found.
Triton is one of the few moons in the Solar System known to be geologically active (the others being Jupiter’s Io and Europa, and Saturn’s Enceladus and Titan). As a consequence, its surface is relatively young with few obvious impact craters, and a complex geological history revealed in intricate cryovolcanic and tectonic terrains. Part of its surface has geysers erupting sublimated nitrogen gas, contributing to a tenuous nitrogen atmosphere less than 1/70,000 the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere at sea level.
image credit: data and images from NASA (triton and neptune by Michael Carroll)