The image on the right is a composite of two views of Europa. The left view shows the approximate natural color appearance of Europa. The view on the right is a false-color composite version combining violet, green and infrared images to enhance color differences in the predominantly water-ice crust of Europa. Dark brown areas represent rocky material derived from the interior, implanted by impact, or from a combination of interior and exterior sources. Bright plains in the polar areas (top and bottom) are shown in tones of blue to distinguish possibly coarse-grained ice (dark blue) from fine-grained ice (light blue). Long, dark lines are fractures in the crust, some of which are more than 3,000 kilometers (1,850 miles) long. The bright feature containing a central dark spot in the lower third of the image is a young impact crater some 50 kilometers (31 miles) in diameter. This crater has been provisionally named "Pwyll" for the Celtic god of the underworld. This image was taken on September 7, 1996, at a range of 677,000 kilometers (417,900 miles) by the solid state imaging television camera onboard the Galileo spacecraft during its second orbit around Jupiter.
Europa orbits Jupiter. The effects on Europa from this orbiting is the central focus of the planetary science of Europa.
Europa has a mean radius of 1,569 km (0.245 R♁).
Europa is about 3,160 kilometers (1,950 miles) in diameter, or about the size of Earth's moon.
An orbital resonance occurs when two orbiting bodies exert a regular, periodic gravitational influence on each other, usually due to their orbital periods being related by a ratio of two small integers. The physics principle behind orbital resonance is similar in concept to pushing a child on a swing, where the orbit and the swing both have a natural frequency, and the other body doing the "pushing" will act in periodic repetition to have a cumulative effect on the motion. Orbital resonances greatly enhance the mutual gravitational influence of the bodies, i.e., their ability to alter or constrain each other's orbits. In most cases, this results in an unstable interaction, in which the bodies exchange momentum and shift orbits until the resonance no longer exists. Under some circumstances, a resonant system can be stable and self-correcting, so that the bodies remain in resonance. Examples are the 1:2:4 resonance of Jupiter's moons Ganymede, Europa and Io, and the 2:3 resonance between Pluto and Neptune. Unstable resonances with Saturn's inner moons give rise to gaps in the rings of Saturn. The special case of 1:1 resonance (between bodies with similar orbital radii) causes large Solar System bodies to eject most other bodies sharing their orbits; this is part of the much more extensive process of clearing the neighbourhood, an effect that is used in the current definition of a planet.
"The clay-like minerals [in the patch shown on the image at the right] appear in blue in the false-color patch of data from Galileo's Near-Infrared Mapping Spectrometer."
"A new analysis of data from NASA's Galileo mission has revealed clay-type minerals at the surface of Jupiter's icy moon Europa that appear to have been delivered by a spectacular collision with an asteroid or comet. This is the first time such minerals have been detected on Europa's surface. The types of space rocks that deliver such minerals typically also often carry organic materials."
"Organic materials, which are important building blocks for life, are often found in comets and primitive asteroids. Finding the rocky residues of this comet crash on Europa's surface may open up a new chapter in the story of the search for life on Europa."
"The phyllosilicates appear in a broken ring about 25 miles (40 kilometers) wide, which is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) away from the center of a 20-mile-diameter (30 kilometers) central crater site."
“Understanding Europa’s composition is key to deciphering its history and its potential habitability. It will take a future spacecraft mission to Europa to pin down the specifics of its chemistry and the implications for this moon hosting life.”
The most likely hypothesis states that these lineae may have been produced by a series of eruptions of warm ice as the Europan crust spread open to expose warmer layers beneath. The effect would have been similar to that seen in the Earth's oceanic ridges. These various fractures are thought to have been caused in large part by the tidal stresses exerted by Jupiter. Since Europa is tidally locked to Jupiter, and therefore always maintains the same approximate orientation towards the planet, the stress patterns should form a distinctive and predictable pattern. However, only the youngest of Europa's fractures conform to the predicted pattern; other fractures appear to occur at increasingly different orientations the older they are. This could be explained if Europa's surface rotates slightly faster than its interior, an effect which is possible due to the subsurface ocean mechanically decoupling the moon's surface from its rocky mantle and the effects of Jupiter's gravity tugging on the moon's outer ice crust. Comparisons of Voyager and Galileo spacecraft photos serve to put an upper limit on this hypothetical slippage. The full revolution of the outer rigid shell relative to the interior of Europa occurs over a minimum of 12,000 years.
The figures above portray convective flow structures, zonal flows and temperature fields (left to right, respectively) in a Europa-like convection models.
The "odd surface terrain patterns [of Europa] likely come about due to convection. [...] The ice shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa is marked by regions of disrupted ice known as chaos terrains that cover up to 40% of the satellite’s surface, most commonly occurring within 40° of the equator. Concurrence with salt deposits implies a coupling between the geologically active ice shell and the underlying liquid water ocean at lower latitudes. Europa’s ocean dynamics have been assumed to adopt a two-dimensional pattern, which channels the moon’s internal heat to higher latitudes. [...] heterogeneous heating promotes the formation of chaos features through increased melting of the ice shell and subsequent deposition of marine ice at low latitudes."
"Apart from the Sun, the known X-ray emitters now include planets (Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), planetary satellites (Moon, Io, Europa, and Ganymede), all active comets, the Io plasma torus, the rings of Saturn, the coronae (exospheres) of Earth and Mars, and the heliosphere."
"This image [at page top right] shows ... the approximate natural color appearance of Europa. ... Dark brown areas represent rocky material derived from the interior, implanted by impact, or from a combination of interior and exterior sources. Bright plains in the polar areas (top and bottom) are shown in tones of blue to distinguish possibly coarse-grained ice (dark blue) from fine-grained ice (light blue). Long, dark lines are fractures in the crust, some of which are more than 3,000 kilometers (1,850 miles) long. The bright feature containing a central dark spot in the lower third of the image is a young impact crater some 50 kilometers (31 miles) in diameter. This crater has been provisionally named "Pwyll" for the Celtic god of the underworld."
"View of a small region of the thin, disrupted, ice crust in the Conamara region of Jupiter's moon Europa showing the interplay of surface color with ice structures. The white and blue colors outline areas that have been blanketed by a fine dust of ice particles ejected at the time of formation of the large (26 kilometer in diameter) crater Pwyll some 1000 kilometers to the south. A few small craters of less than 500 meters or 547 yards in diameter can be seen associated with these regions. These were probably formed, at the same time as the blanketing occurred, by large, intact, blocks of ice thrown up in the impact explosion that formed Pwyll. The unblanketed surface has a reddish brown color that has been painted by mineral contaminants carried and spread by water vapor released from below the crust when it was disrupted. The original color of the icy surface was probably a deep blue color seen in large areas elsewhere on the moon. The colors in this picture have been enhanced for visibility."
"North is to the top of the picture and the sun illuminates the surface from the right. The image, centered at 9 degrees north latitude and 274 degrees west longitude, covers an area approximately 70 by 30 kilometers (44 by 19 miles), and combines data taken by the Solid State Imaging (CCD) system on NASA's Galileo spacecraft during three of its orbits through the Jovian system. Low resolution color (violet, green, and infrared) data acquired in September 1996, were combined with medium resolution images from December 1996, to produce synthetic color images. These were then combined with a high resolution mosaic of images acquired on February 20th, 1997 at a resolution of 54 meters (59 yards) per picture element and at a range of 5340 kilometers (3320 miles)."
At left is another "image of Jupiter's icy satellite Europa shows surface features such as domes and ridges, as well as a region of disrupted terrain including crustal plates which are thought to have broken apart and "rafted" into new positions. The image covers an area of Europa's surface about 250 by 200 kilometer (km) and is centered at 10 degrees latitude, 271 degrees longitude. The color information allows the surface to be divided into three distinct spectral units. The bright white areas are ejecta rays from the relatively young crater Pwyll, which is located about 1000 km to the south (bottom) of this image. These patchy deposits appear to be superposed on other areas of the surface, and thus are thought to be the youngest features present. Also visible are reddish areas which correspond to locations where non-ice components are present. This coloring can be seen along the ridges, in the region of disrupted terrain in the center of the image, and near the dome-like features where the surface may have been thermally altered. Thus, areas associated with internal geologic activity appear reddish. The third distinct color unit is bright blue, and corresponds to the relatively old icy plains."
"This product combines data taken by the Solid State Imaging (SSI) system on NASA's Galileo spacecraft during three separate flybys of Europa. Low resolution color data (violet, green, and 1 micron) acquired in September 1996 were combined with medium resolution images from December 1996, to produce synthetic color images. These were then combined with a high resolution mosaic of images acquired in February 1997."
"Frozen sulfuric acid on Jupiter's moon Europa is depicted in this image produced from data gathered by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. The brightest areas, where the yellow is most intense, represent regions of high frozen sulfuric acid concentration. Sulfuric acid is found in battery acid and in Earth's acid rain."
"This image is based on data gathered by Galileo's near infrared mapping spectrometer."
"Europa's leading hemisphere is toward the bottom right, and there are enhanced concentrations of sulfuric acid in the trailing side of Europa (the upper left side of the image). This is the face of Europa that is struck by sulfur ions coming from Jupiter's innermost moon, Io. The long, narrow features that crisscross Europa also show sulfuric acid that may be from sulfurous material extruded in cracks."
The darker regions are areas where Europa's primarily water ice surface has a higher mineral content.
"This [image at the right] is the first strong evidence of water plumes erupting off Europa's surface."
"Hubble didn't photograph plumes, but spectroscopically detected auroral emissions from oxygen and hydrogen. The aurora is powered by Jupiter's magnetic field. This is only the second moon in the solar system found ejecting water vapor from the frigid surface. The image of Europa is derived from a global surface map generated from combined observations taken by NASA's Voyager and Galileo space probes."
"This rendering [at the right] of Europa shows the temperature field in a simulation of the icy Jupiter moon's global ocean dynamics, where hot plumes (red) rise from the seafloor and cool fluid (blue) sinks down from the ice-ocean border. More heat is delivered to the ice shell near the equator, consistent with the distribution of chaos terrains on Europa."
"This rendering [at the left] of Jupiter's icy moon Europa shows so-called isosurfaces of warmer (red) and cooler (blue) temperatures in a simulation of Europa’s global ocean dynamics. More heat is delivered to the ice shell near the equator where convection is more vigorous, consistent with the distribution of chaos terrains on Europa."
"The most interesting feature of Europa, Jupiter’s sixth moon, is the incredibly smooth surface with relatively few craters. There are only three craters that have a diameter greater than 3.1 miles. This is an incredibly small amount for the moon which is just slightly less than the size of Earth’s Moon. Scientists believe that the surface of Europa is relatively young because of that fact. Another notable feature is the basically level surface with very little change in altitude across the moon. While there is almost no elevation change on Europa to observe, there are distinct lines which encircle the moon. The latest theory is that these markings are from volcanoes or geysers."
"Europa is one of only five moons in the solar system known to have an atmosphere. This atmosphere is incredibly small with a pressure of only 1 x 10-8 mb compared to the average of approximately 1000 mb on Earth. An ocean that is up to 30 miles deep is thought to exist under the surface layer of Europa. Another theory regarding the distinct markings on Europa is that they are the result of the moon’s crust expanding and fracturing causing the cracks to fill in with water and freeze."
"This graphic [image centered above] of Jupiter's moon Europa maps a relationship between the amount of energy deposited onto the moon from charged-particle bombardment and the chemical contents of ice deposits on the surface in five areas of the moon (labeled A through E)."
"Energetic ions and electrons tied to Jupiter's powerful magnetic field smack into Europa as the field sweeps around Jupiter. The magnetic field travels around Jupiter even faster than Europa orbits the planet. Most of the energetic particles hitting Europa strike the moon's "trailing hemisphere," the half facing away from the direction Europa travels in its orbit. The "leading hemisphere," facing in the direction of travel, receives fewer of the charged particles."
"Researchers assessed the amount of sulfate hydrates -- compared with relatively pristine water -- in the surface ice in five widely distributed areas of Europa. They used data from observations made by the near infrared spectrometer (NIMS) instrument on NASA's Galileo spacecraft, which orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003. They found that the concentration of frozen sulfuric acid on the surface varies greatly. It ranges from undetectable levels near the center of Europa's leading hemisphere, to more than half of the surface material near the center of the trailing hemisphere. The concentration is closely related to the amount of energy received from electrons and sulfur ions striking the surface, with a distribution controlled by interactions between Jupiter and Europa's magnetic fields."
"This pattern could provide direction for the best places to study the surface of Europa for learning about material churned up from the moon's subsurface, which includes a deep saltwater ocean beneath an icy shell. The portions of the surface least affected by the bombardment of charged particles from above are most likely to preserve the original chemical compounds that erupted from the interior. Understanding the chemical ingredients of Europa's subsurface ocean could help scientists determine whether, as many suspect, the ocean could have supported life in the past or even now."
"The images of Europa used for the base maps of this figure were taken by the solid state imager on Galileo. The areas labeled A through E are the areas covered by five sets of NIMS observations, and color-coded with darker, bluer portions having more sulfate hydrates and brighter, pinker portions having more water ice. The mapped patterns for energy input are derived from models for the flux of electrons and ions delivered by Jupiter's magnetic field. The color-code key at the right is labeled in units of mega electron volts per square centimeter per second."
Europa has a tenuous atmosphere composed primarily of oxygen.
Observations with the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph of the Hubble Space Telescope, first described in 1995, revealed that Europa has a tenuous atmosphere composed mostly of molecular oxygen (O2). The surface pressure of Europa's atmosphere is 0.1 μPa, or 10−12 times that of the Earth. In 1997, the Galileo spacecraft confirmed the presence of a tenuous ionosphere (an upper-atmospheric layer of charged particles) around Europa created by solar radiation and energetic particles from Jupiter's magnetosphere, providing evidence of an atmosphere.
The molecular hydrogen that escapes Europa's gravity, along with atomic and molecular oxygen, forms a torus (ring) of gas in the vicinity of Europa's orbit around Jupiter. This "neutral cloud" has been detected by both the Cassini and Galileo spacecraft, and has a greater content (number of atoms and molecules) than the neutral cloud surrounding Jupiter's inner moon Io. Models predict that almost every atom or molecule in Europa's torus is eventually ionized, thus providing a source to Jupiter's magnetospheric plasma.
The darker regions are areas where Europa's primarily water ice surface has a higher mineral content. This surface is striated by cracks and streaks, while cratering is relatively infrequent. Other features present on Europa are circular and elliptical lenticulae (Latin for "freckles" reddish spots in the first image at left). Many are domes, some are pits and some are smooth, dark spots. Others have a jumbled or rough texture. The dome tops look like pieces of the older plains around them, suggesting that the domes formed when the plains were pushed up from below. The prominent markings crisscrossing the moon seem to be mainly albedo features, which emphasize low topography.
"Reddish spots and shallow pits pepper the enigmatic ridged surface of Europa in this view combining information from images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft during two different orbits around Jupiter."
"The spots and pits visible in this region of Europa's northern hemisphere are each about 10 kilometers (6 miles) across. The dark spots are called "lenticulae," the Latin term for freckles. Their similar sizes and spacing suggest that Europa's icy shell may be churning away like a lava lamp, with warmer ice moving upward from the bottom of the ice shell while colder ice near the surface sinks downward. Other evidence has shown that Europa likely has a deep melted ocean under its icy shell. Ruddy ice erupting onto the surface to form the lenticulae may hold clues to the composition of the ocean and to whether it could support life."
"The image combines higher-resolution information obtained when Galileo flew near Europa on May 31, 1998, during the spacecraft's 15th orbit of Jupiter, with lower-resolution color information obtained on June 28, 1996, during Galileo's first orbit."
Europa's most striking surface features are a series of dark streaks crisscrossing the entire globe, called lineae (lines). Close examination shows that the edges of Europa's crust on either side of the cracks have moved relative to each other. The larger bands are more than 20 km (12 mi) across, often with dark, diffuse outer edges, regular striations, and a central band of lighter material.
The third image at the right is a "view of the Conamara Chaos region on Jupiter's moon Europa taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft shows an area where the icy surface has been broken into many separate plates that have moved laterally and rotated. These plates are surrounded by a topographically lower matrix. This matrix material may have been emplaced as water, slush, or warm flowing ice, which rose up from below the surface. One of the plates is seen as a flat, lineated area in the upper portion of the image. Below this plate, a tall twin-peaked mountain of ice rises from the matrix to a height of more than 250 meters (800 feet). The matrix in this area appears to consist of a jumble of many different sized chunks of ice. Though the matrix may have consisted of a loose jumble of ice blocks while it was forming, the large fracture running vertically along the left side of the image shows that the matrix later became a hardened crust, and is frozen today. The Brooklyn Bridge in New York City would be just large enough to span this fracture."
"North is to the top right of the picture, and the sun illuminates the surface from the east. This image, centered at approximately 8 degrees north latitude and 274 degrees west longitude, covers an area approximately 4 kilometers by 7 kilometers (2.5 miles by 4 miles). The resolution is 9 meters (30 feet) per picture element. This image was taken on December 16, 1997 at a range of 900 kilometers (540 miles) by Galileo's solid state imaging system."
"This view [third down on the left] of Jupiter's icy moon Europa shows a region shaped like a mitten that has a texture similar to the matrix of chaotic terrain, which is seen in medium and high resolution images of numerous locations across Europa's surface. Development of such terrain may be one of the major processes for resurfacing the moon. North is to the top and the sun illuminates the surface from the left. The material in the "catcher's mitt" has the appearance of frozen slush and seems to bulge upward from the adjacent surface, which has been bent downward and cracked, especially along the southwest (lower left) margins. Scientists on the Galileo imaging team are exploring various hypotheses for the formation of such terrain including solid-state convection (vertical movement between areas which differ in density due to heating), upwelling of viscous icy "lava," or liquid water melting through from a subsurface ocean."
"The image, centered at 20 degrees north latitude, 80 degrees west longitude covers an area approximately 175 by 180 kilometers (108 by 112 miles). The resolution is 235 meters per picture element. The images were taken on 31 May, 1998 Universal Time at a range of 23 thousand kilometers (14 thousand miles) by the Solid State Imaging (SSI) system on NASA's Galileo spacecraft."
Europa's "surface is composed of water ice and is one of the smoothest in the Solar System. The crust is estimated to have undergone a shift of 80°, nearly flipping over (see true polar wander), which would be unlikely if the ice were solidly attached to the mantle.
"These artist's drawings [at the right] depict two proposed models of the subsurface structure of the Jovian moon, Europa. Geologic features on the surface, imaged by the Solid State Imaging (SSI) system on NASA's Galileo spacecraft might be explained either by the existence of a warm, convecting ice layer, located several kilometers below a cold, brittle surface ice crust (top model), or by a layer of liquid water with a possible depth of more than 100 kilometers (bottom model). If a 100 kilometer (60 mile) deep ocean existed below a 15 kilometer (10 mile) thick Europan ice crust, it would be 10 times deeper than any ocean on Earth and would contain twice as much water as Earth's oceans and rivers combined. Unlike the Earth, magnesium sulfate might be a major salt component of Europa's water or ice, while the Earth's oceans are salty due to sodium chloride (common salt)."
"While data from various instruments on the Galileo spacecraft indicate that an Europan ocean might exist, no conclusive proof has yet been found. To date Earth is the only known place in the solar system where large masses of liquid water are located close to a solid surface. Other sources are especially interesting since water is a key ingredient for the development of life."
Io and Europa were seen for the first time as separate bodies during Galileo's observations of the Jupiter system the following day, January 8, 1610 (used as the discovery date for Io by the International Astronomical Union IAU). The discovery of Io and the other Galilean satellites of Jupiter was published in Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius in March 1610.
The image at page top right shows the prominent crater in the lower right Pwyll.
"This enhanced color image of the region surrounding the young impact crater Pwyll on Jupiter's moon Europa was produced by combining low resolution color data with a higher resolution mosaic of images obtained on December 19, 1996 by the Solid State Imaging (CCD) system aboard NASA's Galileo spacecraft. This region is on the trailing hemisphere of the satellite, centered at 11 degrees South and 276 degrees West, and is about 1240 kilometers across. North is toward the top of the image, and the sun illuminates the surface from the east."
"The 26 kilometer diameter impact crater Pwyll, just below the center of the image, is thought to be one of the youngest features on the surface of Europa. The diameter of the central dark spot, ejecta blasted from beneath Europa's surface, is approximately 40 kilometers, and bright white rays extend for over a thousand kilometers in all directions from the impact site. These rays cross over many different terrain types, indicating that they are younger than anything they cross. Their bright white color may indicate that they are composed of fresh, fine water ice particles, as opposed to the blue and brown tints of older materials elsewhere in the image."
"Also visible in this image are a number of the dark lineaments which are called "triple bands" because they have a bright central stripe surrounded by darker material. Scientists can use the order in which these bands cross each other to determine their relative ages, as they attempt to reconstruct the geologic history of Europa."
Magnetic field data from theGalileo orbiter showed that Europa has an induced magnetic field through interaction with Jupiter's.
- Europa is a solid ice ball.
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