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Planetary science 1979–1982



It is not an exaggeration to say that the past 4 years have brought a growth in our knowledge of the solar system unprecedented in all of history. Prior to this quadrennium, our closeup exploration of the planets had been limited to the atmosphere and a few surface sites on Venus, the surfaces of Mercury, the moon, Mars, Phobos, and Deimos, and an intriguing but limited glimpse at Jupiter. To this list have been added the global topography of Venus and a wide variety of data on Jupiter, Amalthea, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Saturn, Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Titan, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Phoebe.

Among the recent discoveries are continent-sized landforms on Venus, a ring encircling Jupiter, the most volcanically active surface in the solar system on Io, hitherto unknown forms of global tectonism on icy Europa, Ganymede, and Enceladus, and intricate structure within Saturn's rings. Along with the spectacular growth in knowledge stemming from spacecraft exploration, major advances have also been made in telescopic observations of bodies not yet visited by spacecraft, radar observations of a variety of objects, and theoretical study of the evolution of both individual bodies and the solar system as a whole.

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