National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
Return to Solar System Exploration
Facebook Twitter YouTube Facebook Twitter YouTube Flickr iTunes
Follow Us
Another Find for Galileo
9 Apr 2003
(Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

NEWS RELEASE: 2003-049


NASA's Galileo spacecraft serendipitously discovered seven to nine space rocks near Jupiter's inner moon Amalthea when Galileo flew past that moon five months ago.

Galileo detected the objects as bright flashes seen by its star scanner, an onboard telescope used to determine the spacecraft's orientation by sighting stars. Information from the star scanner was recorded onto Galileo's tape recorder during the flyby and transmitted to Earth in subsequent months. Experts at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are analyzing the data to estimate the sizes of the objects, which may be anywhere from gravel to stadium-size rocks.

JPL engineers Paul Fieseler and Shadan Ardalan reported the findings to the International Astronomical Union. The star tracker saw nine flashes during the flyby, but two may be duplicate sightings.

"It is likely that these bodies have either been gravitationally captured into an orbit near Amalthea or have been split off of the moon as a result of past collisions," Fieseler said.

The Amalthea encounter was Galileo's last flyby of a jovian moon. After more than seven years in orbit around Jupiter, the spacecraft has nearly depleted its supply of propellant needed for pointing its antenna toward Earth and controlling its flight path. While still controllable, it has been put on a course for impact into Jupiter next September. The maneuver prevents the risk of Galileo drifting to an unwanted impact with the moon Europa, where it has discovered evidence of a subsurface ocean that is of interest as a possible habitat for extraterrestrial life.

Additional information about Galileo and the discoveries is available at JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Galileo mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writers: Courtney O'Connor and Bill Dunford
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 9 Apr 2003