thumbnail

Episodic plate separation and fracture infill on the surface of Europa

Nature

By:
, , , , , , , , , , ,
DOI: 10.1038/34874

Links

Abstract

Images obtained by the Voyager spacecraft revealed dark, wedge-shaped bands on Europa that were interpreted as evidence that surface plates, 50- 100 km across, moved and rotated relative to each other. This implied that they may be mechanically decoupled from the interior by a layer of warm ice or liquid water. Here we report similar features seen in higher resolution images (420 metres per pixel) obtained by the Galileo spacecraft that reveal new details of wedge-band formation. In particular, the interior of one dark band shows bilateral symmetry of parallel lineaments and pit complexes which indicates that plate separation occurred in discrete episodes from a central axis. The images also show that this style of tectonic activity involved plates < 10 km across. Although this tectonic style superficially resembles aspects of similar activity on Earth, such as sea-floor spreading and the formation of ice leads in polar seas, there are significant differences in the underlying physical mechanisms: the wedge-shaped bands on Europa most probably formed when lower material (ice or water) rose to fill the fractures that widened in response to regional surface stresses.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Episodic plate separation and fracture infill on the surface of Europa
Series title:
Nature
DOI:
10.1038/34874
Volume
391
Issue:
6665
Year Published:
1998
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Nature
First page:
371
Last page:
373
Number of Pages:
3