Active Cryovolcanism on Europa?

©astro-ph.EP

Possible cryovolcano

Evidence for plumes of water on Europa has previously been found using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) using two different observing techniques. Roth et al. (2014) found line emission from the dissociation products of water. Sparks et al. (2016) found evidence for off-limb continuum absorption as Europa transited Jupiter.

Here, we present a new transit observation of Europa that shows a second event at the same location as a previous plume candidate from Sparks et al. (2016), raising the possibility of a consistently active source of erupting material on Europa. This conclusion is bolstered by comparison with a nighttime thermal image from the Galileo Photopolarimeter-Radiometer (PPR) which shows a thermal anomaly at the same location, within the uncertainties (Spencer et al. 1999). The anomaly has the highest observed brightness temperature on the Europa nightside. If heat flow from a subsurface liquid water reservoir causes the thermal anomaly, its depth is ~1.8-2 km, under simple modeling assumptions, consistent with scenarios in which a liquid water reservoir has formed within a thick ice shell.

Models that favor thin regions within the ice shell that connect directly to the ocean, however, cannot be excluded, nor modifications to surface thermal inertia by subsurface activity. Alternatively, vapor deposition surrounding an active vent could increase the thermal inertia of the surface and cause the thermal anomaly. This candidate plume region may offer a promising location for an initial characterization of Europa's internal water and ice and for seeking evidence of Europa's habitability. ~

William B. Sparks, Britney E. Schmidt, Melissa A. McGrath, Kevin P. Hand, John .R. Spencer, Misty Cracraft, Susana E. Deustua
(Submitted on 13 Apr 2017)


Comments: 14 pages, 2 figures
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:1704.04283 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1704.04283v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Susana Deustua
[v1] Thu, 13 Apr 2017 21:53:51 GMT (276kb)
https://arxiv.org/abs/1704.04283

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