Pits, Uplifts And Small Chaos Features On Europa

By Keith Cowing
August 4, 2021
Filed under
Pits, Uplifts And Small Chaos Features On Europa
Simple cylindrical projection of Europa with summary of mapped locations. Shading indicates the East (leading) and West (trailing) regional maps (RegMaps, ~220 and 210 m px-1 , respectively) and symbols show locations of higher resolution images with features. Boxes outline areas richest in mapped features (pits, uplifts and sub-circular small chaos regions). The remaining areas have a high percentage of continuous, or essentially interconnected, chaos. Basemap courtesy USGS.

One of the clearest but unresolved questions for Europa is the thickness of its icy shell. Europa’s surface is resplendent with geological features that bear on this question, and ultimately on its interior, geological history, and astrobiological potential.

We characterize the size and topographic expression of circular and subcircular features created by endogenic thermal and tectonic disturbances on Europa: pits, uplifts, and small, subcircular chaos. We utilize the medium-resolution Galileo regional maps (RegMaps), as well as high-resolution regions, digital elevation models derived from albedo-controlled photoclinometry, and in some cases stereo-controlled photoclinometry. While limited in extent, the high-resolution images are extremely valuable for detecting smaller features and for overall geomorphological analysis.

A peak in the size-distribution for all features is found at ~5-6 km in diameter and no pits smaller than 3.3 km in diameter were found in high resolution images. Additionally, there is a trend for larger pits to be deeper, and larger uplifts to be higher. Our data support a diapiric or intracrustal sill interpretation (as opposed to purely non-intrusive, melt-through models) and place a lower limit on ice shell thickness at the time of feature formation of 3-to-8 km, assuming isostasy and depending on the composition of the ice and underlying ocean.

Pits, Uplifts and Small Chaos Features on Europa: Morphologic and Morphometric Evidence for Intrusive Upwelling and Lower Limits to Ice Shell Thickness

Kelsi N. Singer, William B. McKinnon, Paul M. Schenk

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Journal reference: Icarus 364, 114465 (2021)
DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2021.114465
Cite as: arXiv:2108.01795 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2108.01795v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Kelsi Singer
[v1] Wed, 4 Aug 2021 00:13:40 UTC (5,572 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻