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Mysterious spires on the surface of Jupiter's moon Callisto - Space Art Illustration

Spires on Callisto

In May 2001 NASA's Galileo spacecraft took the highest resolution images of any of Jupiter's satellites. The images were of the southeastern perimeter of Callisto's massive Asgard impact basin and what they revealed was unlike anything seen before in the Solar System: numerous bright, icy spires rising from an otherwise relatively flat, cratered terrain. The spires may consist of material thrown outward from a major impact billions of years ago.

In this image dozens of knobby spires rise into the airless void to twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. Over the eons the dirty ice in the spires has slowly eroded, leaving the non-ice materials to slide down and collect around the base of the spires. As this location is on the side of Callisto that always faces away from Jupiter (the "anti-Jupiter" side), its jovian host would never appear above the horizon.

While the Galileo images of Callisto's surface were of relatively high resolution, they still could not discern anything smaller than 10 feet, so what exactly these spires would look like from ground level, or what the colors would be, is open to conjecture. Here I've taken some liberty by giving the darker, non-icy materials a tan color and by depicting flecks of ice scattered on the ground and at the bases of the spires.


Copyright Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.

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