Nasa Maps Ganymede, The Largest Moon In The Solar System

Nasa has produced a remarkable map of the largest moon in the Solar System.

Ganymede, Jupiter's titanic moon and the largest in our local space neighbourhood, was first discovered by Galileo 400 years ago.

The world has a diameter of about 5,300km, and is larger than the planet Mercury (though only about half as heavy).

Now, by combining data from the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft and the Galileo orbiter, a group of scientists at Wheaton College have been able to produce a 'global map' of the world.

The map vividly illustrates the varied geography of the world, Nasa said, and "helps to make order from the apparent chaos of its complex surface".

It won't be all that long until scientists return to Ganymede. The European Space Agency is planning a mission to orbit the moon in 2032.

"The highly detailed, colourful map confirmed a number of outstanding scientific hypotheses regarding Ganymede’s geologic history, and also disproved others,” said Baerbel Lucchitta, a scientist who has worked on the geologic mapping of Ganymede since 1980.

"For example, the more detailed Galileo images showed that cryovolcanism, or the creation of volcanoes that erupt water and ice, is very rare on Ganymede."

It has long been supposed that Ganymede might be a target, one day, for human exploration given its rocky surface and water ice. That's a long way off, however, and in the meantime several teams are looking into the feasibility of landing a probe on the moon.