Io and Europa, the inner two of Jupiter's four largest moons, are about the size of Earth's moon and are composed mostly or entirely of rock and metal. Ganymede and Callisto are larger and roughly half ice. Thus, these four moons are somewhat analogous to the planets of the solar system, in which the rock- and metal-rich inner planets are distinct from the much larger gas and ice-rich outer planets. Jupiter's moons are, however, more "systematic": many of their properties vary continuously with distance from Jupiter. For example, Io is ice-free, Europa has a surface shell of ice, and while Ganymede and Callisto are both ice-rich, outermost Callisto has more.

This compositional gradient has geological parallels. Io is extremely geologically active, Europa seems to be active on a more modest scale, and Ganymede has undergone bouts of activity in its geological past. Only Callisto reveals no geological activity. In similar fashion, Callisto's surface is very heavily cratered from the impact of comets and asteroids; Ganymede, like Earth's moon, is heavily cratered in parts; Europa is very lightly cratered; and no craters have been detected on Io, even though Jupiter's gravity attracts comets and asteroids passing near it, substantially increasing the bombardment rate of the inner moons compared to that of the outer ones. But because of Io's high degree of geological activity, its surface undergoes moreor- less continuous volcanic resurfacing.

The author's reference to Jupiter's gravity in the highlighted text serves primarily to

indicate why the absence of craters on Io's surface is surprising

explain the presence of craters on the surface of Jupiter's four largest moons

provide an explanation for the lack of geological activity on Callisto

contrast Jupiter's characteristics with the characteristics of its four largest moons

illustrate the similarity between Jupiter's four largest moons and the planets of the solar system


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