Infall of dark carbon-rich material in the Jupiter system

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Sky and Telescope report on a recently accepted paper in Icarus:

Callisto’s reflectivity is only about 19% — even though its surface should be largely water ice. Something has contaminated the ice, and over the years several planetary scientists have suggested that carbon-rich debris from the irregular satellites was somehow involved. The numbers suggest that some 50 million billion tons of small particles, coffee-ground size and smaller, have been winnowed away. A subtle sunlight-induced effect called Poynting-Robertson drag causes these bits to slowly spiral toward Jupiter. The effect was first postulated in 1937.

Image credits: Ganymede (top) and Callisto, from the Galileo orbiter, 1999 and 2001.

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