Jupiter and its four major moons (from http://www.wikipedia.org)
In 364 B.C. the Chinese astronomer Gan De may have been the first human in history to observe one of the moons of Jupiter. However, it was in 1610 when Galileo was the first to person to observe and document the four major moons of Jupiter (The Planets by Dava Sobel; 2005). Ranking the major moons first through fourth by their order from closest to furthest away from the planet they are Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
First major moon of Jupiter – Io (solarsystem.nasa.gov)
In HPL’s time there was a flurry of activity relative to the discovery of new Jovian moons. From Galileo’s time till the late 19th century no new moons were discovered. However, in 1892 E.E. Barnard discovered Amalthea. With the use of telescopic photography other moons were soon discovered. HPL documented some of these discovers in his astronomical articles. For example, in the Providence Evening News, 31 October 1914 HPL mentions the discovery of a ninth moon orbiting Jupiter by Seth B. Nicholson earlier that same year (Collected Essays: Science, Volume 3 by S.T. Joshi, 2005). Currently, the total number of moons orbiting Jupiter is more than 60 and counting.
Artist’s concept of a view of Jupiter and the sun from the surface of Europa (solarsystem.nasa.gov)
In his tales HPL mentions Jupiter once and its satellites twice. In Through the Gates of the Silver Key (co-written with E. Hoffmann Price) in the same passage where Swami Chandraputra is describing the travels of Randolph Carter’s and he references Mars, he also talks about how he “learned an untellable secret from the close-glimpsed mists of Jupiter…” What strange secrets do the mists of Jupiter hold? Was Randolph Carter talking about the Great Red Spot; is the Spot some vast entity feeding on the hydrogen and helium of Jupiter. Or, is the Spot entity slowly dying, which is why its shrinking in size.
Swami Chandraputra, an alias of Randolph Carter’s in Through the Gate of the Silver Key (megamitensei.wikia.com)
In The Shadow Out of Time in the same passage where Peaslee mentions a mind that will live on Venus in the distance future, he also talks about “one from an outer moon of Jupiter six million years in the past.” The two outer moons of the major four are Ganymede, and Callisto. Is it possible one of these satellites was a way-station for the Yithians in the transfer of their minds eventually to Earth?
The third major moon of Jupiter – Ganymede (solarsystem.nasa.gov)
In a previous article about HPL’s The Shadow Out of Time we discussed, using much of the physics described in Michio Kaku’s The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind (2014), how it may be possible to transfer the collective memories of an entity through time and space. However, to do so would require beacons or way-stations to accept the information, download it and then transfer it to the next station until it can be finally “downloaded” into a biological entity. Is the mind on the outer Jovian moon a Yithian who got lost in the cosmic transfer of minds, only to make it back to our solar system millions of years later? Or, is the mind something else?
Yithian communication or the transfer of a mind through time and space? (by M. Wayne Miller)
Probably the most intriguing mention of the Jovian system in HPL’s stories is in Beyond the Walls of Sleep. In that tale the entity or mind that possesses Joe Slater talks about his travels through time, space and dimensions, which includes dwelling in “the bodies of the insect –philosophers that crawl proudly over the fourth moon of Jupiter.”
An insect-philosopher from the fourth moon of Jupiter (from the talented artist Michael Bukowski; yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)
With the ranking of the major moons previously described, the fourth moon would be Callisto. Thus, do the insect –philosophers crawl over Callisto?
The fourth major moon of Jupiter – Callisto (solarsystem.nasa.gov)
Of the four major moons, Europa is the one that has the highest potential for life. While an icy moon, Europa is thought to have a global ocean of water in contact with a rocky seafloor. While it has some oxygen in its atmosphere it is far too thin to breathe. However, with abundant liquid water, and energy provided by tidal heating, Europa could be the best place in the solar system to look for life beyond Earth (solarsystem.nasa.gov).
In contrast to Europa, Callisto is thought to be a long dead world with minimal geologic activity on its surface. This is in sharp contrast to Io which is one of the most volcanically active bodies in the solar system. Callisto is the most heavily cratered object in the solar system and has a surface age of about 4 billions years, making it one of the oldest landscapes in the solar system. Does this ancient landscape still harbor the insect –philosophers or do they now dwell deep within this rocky moon? Or did Joe Slater’s trip to the fourth moon of Jupiter to see the insect –philosophers occur millions or even billions of years in the past? Were the insect –philosophers the first sentient entities of our solar system? Maybe Joe Slate was and will be the only human to know for sure.
Next time we move to the second gas giant, the “jewel of the solar system” as Carl Sagan called it – Saturn. Thank you – Fred.
A shot of Jupiter and its four major moons (www.wikipedia.org)