Solar System, technical/Europa
Europa has a mean radius of 1,569 km (0.245 R♁).
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The image at page top right is a composite of two images of Europa. The left image shows the approximate natural color appearance of Europa. The image 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 is about 3,160 kilometers (1,950 miles) in diameter, or about the size of Earth's moon.
"[A]n 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 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."
"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."
"[T]he 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."
"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 IAU). The discovery of Io and the other Galilean satellites of Jupiter was published in Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius in March 1610."
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."
"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."
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