An Investigation of Libration Heating and the Thermal State of Enceladus's Ice Shell

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 14, 2021
Filed under , ,
An Investigation of Libration Heating and the Thermal State of Enceladus's Ice Shell

Tidal dissipation is thought to be responsible for the observed high heat loss on Enceladus. Forced librations can enhance tidal dissipation in the ice shell, but how such librations affect the thermal state of Enceladus has not been investigated.

Here we investigate the heating effect of forced librations using the model of Van Hoolst et al. (2013), which includes the elasticity of the ice shell. We find that libration heating in the ice shell is insufficient to match the inferred conductive heat loss of Enceladus. This suggests that either Enceladus is not in a thermal steady state, or additional heating mechanisms beneath the ice shell are contributing the bulk of the power.

In the presence of such an additional heat source, Enceladus resides in a stable thermal equilibrium, resisting small perturbations to the shell thickness. Our results do not support the occurrence of a runaway melting process proposed by Luan and Goldreich (2017). In our study, the strong dependence of conductive loss on shell thickness stabilizes the thermal state of Enceladus’s ice shell. Our study implies that thermal runaway (if it occurred) or episodic heating on Enceladus is unlikely to originate from librations of the ice shell.

Wencheng D. Shao, Francis Nimmo

Comments: 22 Pages, 5 figures, published in Icarus
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Geophysics (physics.geo-ph)
Journal reference: Icarus, 114769 (2021)
DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2021.114769
Cite as: arXiv:2112.07038 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2112.07038v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Wencheng Shao
[v1] Mon, 13 Dec 2021 21:51:38 UTC (1,078 KB)

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