Amalthea (moon)

From Academic Kids

Missing image

Galileo image of Amalthea
Discovered by E. Barnard
Discovered on September 9, 1892
Orbital characteristics
Mean radius 181,995 km (0.001217 AU)
Eccentricity 0.0046637841
Periastron 181,150 km (0.00121 AU)
Apastron 182,840 km (0.00122 AU)
Revolution period 0.49817905 d (11 h 57 min 23 s)
Orbital circumference 1,144,000 km (0.008 AU)
Orbital velocity max: 26.691 km/s
mean: 26.567 km/s
min: 26.443 km/s
Inclination 25.61 (to the ecliptic)
0.36 (to Jupiter's equator)
Is a satellite of Jupiter
Physical characteristics
Mean diameter 172 km (262×146×134 km)
Surface area 397,600 km2
Volume ~2,430,000 km3
Mass 2.1×1018 kg
Mean density 0.862 g/cm3
Surface gravity 0.0018 m/s2 (0.002 g)
Escape velocity 0.0058 km/s
Rotation period synchronous
rotation velocity
69 km/h
Axial tilt zero
Albedo 0.09
Surface temp.
min mean max
K ~122 K K
Atmospheric pressure 0 kPa

Amalthea (am'-ul-thee'-a, Greek Αμάλθεια) is the third moon of Jupiter (in order of distance from the planet), and the fifth in order of discovery, hence its Roman numeral designation of Jupiter V. It was discovered on September 9 1892 by Edward Emerson Barnard using the 36 inch (91 cm) refractor telescope at Lick Observatory. Amalthea was the last moon to be discovered by direct visual observation (as opposed to photographically), and was the first new moon of Jupiter to be discovered since Galileo Galilei discovered the Galilean moons in 1610. It is named after the nymph of Greek legend who nursed the infant Zeus (Jupiter) with goat's milk.

It is the largest of the inner group of jovian moons that bears its name.

The name "Amalthea" was not formally adopted by the IAU until 1975, although it had been in informal use for many decades earlier after its suggestion by Camille Flammarion. Before 1975 it was most commonly known simply as Jupiter V.

Not to be confused with the asteroid 113 Amalthea.


Physical characteristics

Amalthea is the reddest object in the solar system, even redder than the planet Mars. The reddish color is apparently due to sulfur originating from Io. Bright patches of green appear on the major slopes of Amalthea, but the nature of this color is currently unknown.

Missing image
Galileo images showing Amalthea's irregular shape

Amalthea is irregularly shaped, with dimensions of 270 × 168 × 150 km; the long axis is oriented toward Jupiter. It is also heavily scarred by craters, some of which are extremely large relative to the size of the moon. Pan, the largest crater, measures 100 kilometers across and is at least 8 kilometers deep. Another crater, Gaea, measures 80 kilometers across and is probably twice as deep as Pan. Amalthea has two known mountains, Mons Lyctas and Mons Ida with local relief reaching up to 20 kilometers.

Amalthea's irregular shape and large size led to conclusion that it is a fairly strong, rigid body; if it were composed of ices or other weak materials its own gravity would have pulled it into a more spherical shape. However, near the end of its mission the Galileo orbiter made a close flyby of the moon. The exact mass of Amalthea was measured and its density was found to be as low as 1.8 g/cm³—it must be either a relatively icy body or a very porous "rubble pile". Recent measurements from the Subaru telescope suggest that the moon is indeed icy, indicating that it cannot have formed in its current position, since the hot primordial Jupiter would have melted it. Therefore it is likely a captured asteroid.

Like all the inner moons of Jupiter it is tidally locked with the planet, its long axis pointing towards Jupiter at all times. Like Io, Amalthea radiates more heat than it receives from the Sun. This is probably due to the electrical currents induced within it by its orbit through Jupiter's magnetic field.

During the Amalthea encounter, the Galileo orbiter's star scanner detected nine flashes which appear to be small rocks near the orbit of the moon. Since they were sighted only from one location, their true distances could not be measured. The rocks may be anywhere from gravel to stadium-size. Their origins are unknown, but they may be gravitationally captured into current orbit or they may be ejecta from meteor impacts on the moon.

On November 5, 2002, a little less than a year before it was crashed into Jupiter (on September 21, 2003), the Galileo orbiter made its last moon flyby when it came within 160 km of Amalthea [1] ( The deflection of its orbit was used to compute the moon's mass. Its volume had been calculated previously (to within 10% or so) from a careful analysis of all extant images (note: the value listed in the infobox is the simple ellipsoid volume, not the NASA value). The result [2] ( was surprising: Amalthea's overall density is close to the density of water ice, although the moon is almost certainly not a solid hunk of ice. One possibility is that the moon consists of many pieces that cling together from the pull of each other's gravity, mixed with empty spaces, where the pieces don't fit tightly together. Even then, the solid parts of Amalthea are apparently less dense than Io. This finding extends an emerging pattern of irregularly shaped moons and asteroids as porous rubble piles.

Amalthea in fiction


E. E. Barnard, Discovery and Observation of a Fifth Satellite to Jupiter, Astronomical Journal 12 (1892), 81–85 (

External links

... | Adrastea | Amalthea | Thebe | ...

Jupiter's natural satellites

edit  (

Metis | Adrastea | Amalthea | Thebe | Io | Europa | Ganymede | Callisto | Themisto | Leda | Himalia | Lysithea | Elara | S/2000 J 11 | Carpo | S/2003 J 12 | Euporie | S/2003 J 3 | S/2003 J 18 | Thelxinoe | Euanthe | Helike | Orthosie | Iocaste | S/2003 J 16 | Ananke | Praxidike | Harpalyke | Hermippe | Thyone | Mneme | S/2003 J 17 | Aitne | Kale | Taygete | S/2003 J 19 | Chaldene | S/2003 J 15 | S/2003 J 10 | S/2003 J 23 | Erinome | Aoede | Kallichore | Kalyke | Eurydome | S/2003 J 14 | Pasithee | Cyllene | Eukelade | S/2003 J 4 | Hegemone | Arche | Carme | Isonoe | S/2003 J 9 | S/2003 J 5 | Pasipha | Sinope | Sponde | Autonoe | Callirrhoe | Megaclite | S/2003 J 2
Amalthea group | Galilean moons | Himalia group | Ananke group | Carme group | Pasipha group
bg:Амалтея (спътник)

de:Amalthea (Mond) fr:Amalthe (lune) gl:Amaltea, la it:Amaltea (astronomia) nl:Amalthea (maan) ja:アマルテア (衛星) sk:Amalthea (mesiac) sr:Амалтеа sv:Amalthea (mne) zh:木卫五


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools