Moons of Jupiter

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A montage of Jupiter and its four largest moons

The planet Jupiter has 67 confirmed moons.[1] This gives it the largest retinue of moons with "reasonably secure" orbits of any planet in the Solar System.[2] The most massive of them, the four Galilean moons, were discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei and were the first objects found to orbit a body that was neither Earth nor the Sun. From the end of the 19th century, dozens of much smaller Jovian moons have been discovered and have received the names of lovers, conquests, or daughters of the Roman god Jupiter, or his Greek equivalent, Zeus. The Galilean moons are by far the largest and most massive objects in orbit around Jupiter, with the remaining 63 moons and the rings together comprising just 0.003 percent of the total orbiting mass.

Eight of Jupiter's moons are regular satellites, with prograde and nearly circular orbits that are not greatly inclined with respect to Jupiter's equatorial plane. The Galilean satellites are ellipsoidal in shape, due to having planetary mass, and so would be considered (dwarf) planets if they were in direct orbit about the Sun. The other four regular satellites are much smaller and closer to Jupiter; these serve as sources of the dust that makes up Jupiter's rings.

The remainder of Jupiter's moons are irregular satellites, whose prograde and retrograde orbits are much farther from Jupiter and have high inclinations and eccentricities. These moons were probably captured by Jupiter from solar orbits. There are 17 recently discovered irregular satellites that have not yet been named.

The relative masses of the Jovian moons. Those smaller than Europa are not visible at this scale, and combined would only be visible at 100× magnification.


The moons' physical and orbital characteristics vary widely. The four Galileans are all over 3,100 kilometres (1,900 mi) in diameter; the largest Galilean, Ganymede, is the ninth largest object in the Solar System, after the Sun and seven of the planets (Ganymede being larger than Mercury). All other Jovian moons are less than 250 kilometres (160 mi) in diameter, with most barely exceeding 5 kilometres (3.1 mi). Orbital shapes range from nearly perfectly circular to highly eccentric and inclined, and many revolve in the direction opposite to Jupiter's spin (retrograde motion). Orbital periods range from seven hours (taking less time than Jupiter does to spin around its axis), to some three thousand times more (almost three Earth years).

Origin and evolution[edit]

Jupiter's regular satellites are believed to have formed from a circumplanetary disk, a ring of accreting gas and solid debris analogous to a protoplanetary disk.[3][4] They may be the remnants of a score of Galilean-mass satellites that formed early in Jupiter's history.[3][5]

Simulations suggest that, while the disk had a relatively low mass at any given moment, over time a substantial fraction (several tens of a percent) of the mass of Jupiter captured from the Solar nebula was processed through it. However, the disk mass of only 2% that of Jupiter is required to explain the existing satellites.[3] Thus there may have been several generations of Galilean-mass satellites in Jupiter's early history. Each generation of moons would have spiraled into Jupiter, due to drag from the disk, with new moons then forming from the new debris captured from the Solar nebula.[3] By the time the present (possibly fifth) generation formed, the disk had thinned out to the point that it no longer greatly interfered with the moons' orbits.[5] The current Galilean moons were still affected, falling into and being partially protected by an orbital resonance which still exists for Io, Europa, and Ganymede. Ganymede's larger mass means that it would have migrated inward at a faster rate than Europa or Io.[3]

The outer, irregular moons are thought to have originated from passing asteroids while the protolunar disk was still massive enough to absorb much of their momentum and thus capture them into orbit. Many broke up by the stresses of capture, or afterward by collisions with other small bodies, producing the families we see today.[6]


Jupiter and the Galilean moons through a 10" (25 cm) Meade LX200 telescope
The Galilean moons. From left to right, in order of increasing distance from Jupiter: Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto
The Galilean moons and their orbits around Jupiter

The first claimed observation of one of Jupiter's moons is that of the Chinese astronomer Gan De around 364 BC.[7] However, the first certain observations of Jupiter's satellites were those of Galileo Galilei in 1609.[8] By March 1610, he had sighted the four massive Galilean moons with his 30x magnification telescope:[9] Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa. No additional satellites were discovered until E. E. Barnard observed Amalthea in 1892.[10] With the aid of telescopic photography, further discoveries followed quickly over the course of the twentieth century. Himalia was discovered in 1904,[11] Elara in 1905,[12] Pasiphaë in 1908,[13] Sinope in 1914,[14] Lysithea and Carme in 1938,[15] Ananke in 1951,[16] and Leda in 1974.[17] By the time Voyager space probes reached Jupiter around 1979, 13 moons had been discovered; while Themisto was observed in 1975,[18] but due to insufficient initial observation data, it was lost until 2000. The Voyager missions discovered an additional three inner moons in 1979: Metis, Adrastea, and Thebe.[19]

For two decades no additional moons were discovered; but between October 1999 and February 2003, researchers using sensitive ground-based detectors found and later named another 34 moons, most of which were discovered by a team led by Scott S. Sheppard and David C. Jewitt.[20] These are tiny moons, in long, eccentric, generally retrograde orbits, and average of 3 km (1.9 mi) in diameter, with the largest being just 9 km (5.6 mi) across. All of these moons are thought to be captured asteroidal or perhaps cometary bodies, possibly fragmented into several pieces,[21] but very little is actually known about them. A number of 17 additional moons have been discovered but not yet named since 2003,[22] bringing the total number of known moons of Jupiter to 67.[1] As of 2013, this is the most of any planet in the Solar System, but additional undiscovered, tiny moons may exist.


The Galilean moons of Jupiter (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto) were named by Simon Marius soon after their discovery in 1610.[23] However, these names fell out of favor until the 20th century: the astronomical literature instead simply referred to "Jupiter I", "Jupiter II", etc., or "the first satellite of Jupiter", "Jupiter's second satellite", and so on.[23] The names Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto became popular in the 20th century, while the rest of the moons, usually numbered in Roman numerals V (5) through XII (12), remained unnamed.[24] By a popular though unofficial convention, Jupiter V, discovered in 1892, was given the name Amalthea, first used by the French astronomer Camille Flammarion.[20]

The other moons, in the majority of astronomical literature, were simply labeled by their Roman numeral (i.e. Jupiter IX) until the 1970s.[25] In 1975, the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) Task Group for Outer Solar System Nomenclature granted names to satellites V–XIII,[26] and provided for a formal naming process for future satellites to be discovered.[26] The practice was to name newly discovered moons of Jupiter after lovers and favorites of the god Jupiter (Zeus), and since 2004, after their descendants also.[27] All of Jupiter's satellites from XXXIV (Euporie) are named after daughters of Jupiter or Zeus.[27]

Some asteroids share the same names as moons of Jupiter: 9 Metis, 38 Leda, 52 Europa, 85 Io, 113 Amalthea, 239 Adrastea. Two more asteroids previously shared the names of Jovian moons until spelling differences were made permanent by the IAU: Ganymede and asteroid 1036 Ganymed; and Callisto and asteroid 204 Kallisto.


The orbits of Jupiter's irregular satellites, and how they cluster into groups: by semi-major axis (the horizontal axis in Gm); by orbital inclination (the vertical axis); and orbital eccentricity (the yellow lines). The relative sizes are indicated by the circles.

Regular satellites[edit]

These have prograde and nearly circular orbits of low inclination and are split into two groups:

  • Inner satellites or Amalthea group: Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, and Thebe. These orbit very close to Jupiter; the innermost two orbit in less than a Jovian day. The latter two are respectively the fifth and seventh largest moons in the Jovian system. Observations suggest that at least the largest member, Amalthea, did not form on its present orbit, but farther from the planet, or that it is a captured Solar System body.[28] These moons, along with a number of as-yet-unseen inner moonlets, replenish and maintain Jupiter's faint ring system. Metis and Adrastea help to maintain Jupiter's main ring, while Amalthea and Thebe each maintain their own faint outer rings.[29][30]
  • Main group or Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. With radii that are larger than any of the dwarf planets, they are some of the largest objects in the Solar System outside the Sun and the eight planets in terms of mass, and Ganymede exceeds the planet Mercury in diameter. Respectively the fourth, sixth, first and third largest natural satellites in the Solar System, they contain almost 99.999% of the total mass in orbit around Jupiter. Jupiter is almost 5,000 times more massive than the Galilean moons.[note 1] The inner moons also participate in a 1:2:4 orbital resonance. Models suggest that they formed by slow accretion in the low-density Jovian subnebula—a disc of the gas and dust that existed around Jupiter after its formation—which lasted up to 10 million years in the case of Callisto.[31]

Irregular satellites[edit]

Jupiter's outer moons and their highly inclined orbits

The irregular satellites are substantially smaller objects with more distant and eccentric orbits. They form families with shared similarities in orbit (semi-major axis, inclination, eccentricity) and composition; it is believed that these are at least partially collisional families that were created when larger (but still small) parent bodies were shattered by impacts from asteroids captured by Jupiter's gravitational field. These families bear the names of their largest members. The identification of satellite families is tentative, but the following are typically listed:[22][32][33]

  • Themisto[32] is the innermost irregular moon and not part of a known family.[22]
  • Carpo is the outermost prograde moon and not part of a known family.[22]
Retrograde satellites: inclinations (°) vs eccentricities, with Carme's (orange) and Ananke's (yellow) groups identified
  • S/2003 J 12 and S/2011 J 1 are the innermost of the retrograde moons, and are not part of any known family.
  • The Carme group is spread over only 1.2 Gm in semi-major axis, 1.6° in inclination (165.7 ± 0.8°), and eccentricities between 0.23 and 0.27. It is very homogeneous in color (light red) and is believed to have originated from a D-type asteroid progenitor, possibly a Jupiter Trojan.[21]
  • The Ananke group has a relatively wider spread than the previous groups, over 2.4 Gm in semi-major axis, 8.1° in inclination (between 145.7° and 154.8°), and eccentricities between 0.02 and 0.28. Most of the members appear gray, and are believed to have formed from the breakup of a captured asteroid.[21]
  • The Pasiphae group is quite dispersed, with a spread over 1.3 Gm, inclinations between 144.5° and 158.3°, and eccentricities between 0.25 and 0.43.[21] The colors also vary significantly, from red to grey, which might be the result of multiple collisions. Sinope, sometimes included in the Pasiphae group,[21] is red and, given the difference in inclination, it could have been captured independently;[32] Pasiphae and Sinope are also trapped in secular resonances with Jupiter.[34]
  • S/2003 J 2 is the outermost moon of Jupiter, and is not part of a known family.


The moons of Jupiter are listed below by orbital period. Moons massive enough for their surfaces to have collapsed into a spheroid are highlighted in bold. These are the four Galilean moons, which are comparable in size to Earth's Moon. The four inner moons are much smaller. The irregular captured moons are shaded light gray when prograde and dark gray when retrograde.

[note 2]
[note 3]
(km)[note 4]
(×1016 kg)

Orbital period
(d)[35][note 5]
[note 6]
60×40×34~3.6127,690+7h 4m 29s0.06°[36]0.000 021979Synnott
(Voyager 1)
20×16×14~0.2128,690+7h 9m 30s0.03°[36]0.00151979Jewitt
(Voyager 2)
Amalthea PIA02532.png
167 ± 4.0 km
208181,366+11h 57m 23s0.374°[36]0.00321892BarnardInner
116×98×84~43221,889+16h 11m 17s1.076°[36]0.01751979Synnott
(Voyager 1)
Io highest resolution true color.jpg
8,931,900421,700+1.769 10.050°[36]0.00411610GalileiGalilean
3,121.64,800,000671,034+3.551 20.471°[36]0.00941610GalileiGalilean
Ganymede g1 true 2.jpg
5,262.414,819,0001,070,412+7.154 60.204°[36]0.00111610GalileiGalilean
9XVIIIThemistoθɨˈmɪstoʊ80.0697,393,216+129.8745.762°0.21151975/2000Kowal & Roemer/
Sheppard et al.
Himalia from New Horizons.jpg
14S/2000 J 1140.009 012,570,424+287.9327.584°0.20582001Sheppard et al.Himalia?
15XLVICarpoˈkɑrpoʊ30.004 517,144,873+458.6256.001°0.27352003Sheppard et al.Carpo
16S/2003 J 1210.000 1517,739,539−482.69142.680°0.44492003Sheppard et al.?
17XXXIVEuporiejuːˈpɒrɨ.iː20.001 519,088,434−538.78144.694°0.09602002Sheppard et al.Ananke
18S/2003 J 320.001 519,621,780−561.52146.363°0.25072003Sheppard et al.Ananke
19S/2003 J 1820.001 519,812,577−569.73147.401°0.15692003Gladman et al.Ananke
20S/2011 J 1120,155,290−582.22162.8°0.29632011Sheppard et al.?
21S/2010 J 2120,307,150−588.36150.4°0.3072010VeilletAnanke?
22XLIIThelxinoeθɛlkˈsɪnɵʊiː20.001 520,453,753−597.61151.292°0.26842003Sheppard et al.Ananke
23XXXIIIEuanthejuːˈænθiː30.004 520,464,854−598.09143.409°0.20002002Sheppard et al.Ananke
24XLVHelikeˈhɛlɨkiː40.009 020,540,266−601.40154.586°0.13742003Sheppard et al.Ananke
25XXXVOrthosieɔrˈθɒsɨ.iː20.001 520,567,971−602.62142.366°0.24332002Sheppard et al.Ananke
26XXIVIocasteˌaɪ.ɵˈkæstiː50.01920,722,566−609.43147.248°0.28742001Sheppard et al.Ananke
27S/2003 J 1620.001 520,743,779−610.36150.769°0.31842003Gladman et al.Ananke
28XXVIIPraxidikeprækˈsɪdɨkiː70.04320,823,948−613.90144.205°0.18402001Sheppard et al.Ananke
29XXIIHarpalykehɑrˈpælɨkiː40.01221,063,814−624.54147.223°0.24402001Sheppard et al.Ananke
30XLMnemeˈniːmiː20.001 521,129,786−627.48149.732°0.31692003Gladman et al.Ananke
31XXXHermippehərˈmɪpiː40.009 021,182,086−629.81151.242°0.22902002Sheppard et al.Ananke?
32XXIXThyoneθaɪˈoʊniː40.009 021,405,570−639.80147.276°0.25252002Sheppard et al.Ananke
34LHerseˈhɜrsiː20.001 522,134,306−672.75162.490°0.23792003Gladman et al.Carme
35XXXIAitneˈaɪtniː30.004 522,285,161−679.64165.562°0.39272002Sheppard et al.Carme
36XXXVIIKaleˈkeɪliː20.001 522,409,207−685.32165.378°0.20112002Sheppard et al.Carme
37XXTaygeteteɪˈɪdʒɨtiː50.01622,438,648−686.67164.890°0.36782001Sheppard et al.Carme
38S/2003 J 1920.001 522,709,061−699.12164.727°0.19612003Gladman et al.Carme
39XXIChaldenekælˈdiːniː40.007 522,713,444−699.33167.070°0.29162001Sheppard et al.Carme
40S/2003 J 1520.001 522,720,999−699.68141.812°0.09322003Sheppard et al.Ananke?
41S/2003 J 1020.001 522,730,813−700.13163.813°0.34382003Sheppard et al.Carme?
42S/2003 J 2320.001 522,739,654−700.54148.849°0.39302004Sheppard et al.Pasiphaë
43XXVErinomeɨˈrɪnɵmiː30.004 522,986,266−711.96163.737°0.25522001Sheppard et al.Carme
44XLIAoedeeɪˈiːdiː40.009 023,044,175−714.66160.482°0.60112003Sheppard et al.Pasiphaë
45XLIVKallichorekəˈlɪkɵriː20.001 523,111,823−717.81164.605°0.20412003Sheppard et al.Carme?
46XXIIIKalykeˈkælɨkiː50.01923,180,773−721.02165.505°0.21392001Sheppard et al.Carme
90.08723,214,986−727.11139.849°0.25822000Spahr, ScottiPasiphaë
49XXXIIEurydomejʊˈrɪdəmiː30.004 523,230,858−723.36149.324°0.37692002Sheppard et al.Pasiphaë?
50S/2011 J 2123,329,710−725.06151.8°0.38672011Sheppard et al.Pasiphaë?
51XXXVIIIPasitheepəˈsɪθɨ.iː20.001 523,307,318−726.93165.759°0.32882002Sheppard et al.Carme
52S/2010 J 1223,314,335−722.83163.2°0.3202010Jacobson et al.Pasiphaë?
53XLIXKoreˈkɔəriː20.001 523,345,093−776.02137.371°0.19512003Sheppard et al.Pasiphaë
54XLVIIICyllenesɨˈliːniː20.001 523,396,269−731.10140.148°0.41152003Sheppard et al.Pasiphaë
55XLVIIEukeladejuːˈkɛlədiː40.009 023,483,694−735.20163.996°0.28282003Sheppard et al.Carme
56S/2003 J 420.001 523,570,790−739.29147.175°0.30032003Sheppard et al.Pasiphaë
58XXXIXHegemonehɨˈdʒɛməniː30.004 523,702,511−745.50152.506°0.40772003Sheppard et al.Pasiphaë
59XLIIIArcheˈɑrkiː30.004 523,717,051−746.19164.587°0.14922002Sheppard et al.Carme
60XXVIIsonoeaɪˈsɒnɵʊiː40.007 523,800,647−750.13165.127°0.17752001Sheppard et al.Carme
61S/2003 J 910.000 1523,857,808−752.84164.980°0.27612003Sheppard et al.Carme
62S/2003 J 540.009 023,973,926−758.34165.549°0.30702003Sheppard et al.Carme
64XXXVISpondeˈspɒndiː20.001 524,252,627−771.60154.372°0.44312002Sheppard et al.Pasiphaë
65XXVIIIAutonoeɔːˈtɒnɵʊiː40.009 024,264,445−772.17151.058°0.36902002Sheppard et al.Pasiphaë
66XIXMegacliteˌmɛɡəˈklaɪtiː50.02124,687,239−792.44150.398°0.30772001Sheppard et al.Pasiphaë
67S/2003 J 220.001 530,290,846−1077.02153.521°0.18822003Sheppard et al.?

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jupiter Mass of 1.8986 × 1027 kg / Mass of Galilean moons 3.93 × 1023 kg = 4,828
  2. ^ Order refers to the position among other moons with respect to their average distance from Jupiter.
  3. ^ Label refers to the Roman numeral attributed to each moon in order of their naming.
  4. ^ Diameters with multiple entries such as "60×40×34" reflect that the body is not a perfect spheroid and that each of its dimensions have been measured well enough.
  5. ^ Periods with negative values are retrograde.
  6. ^ "?" refers to group assignments that are not considered sure yet.


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