Spin-Orbit Coupling Of Europa’s Ice Shell And Interior

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
February 27, 2023
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Spin-Orbit Coupling Of Europa’s Ice Shell And Interior
Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill processed the images to enhance the color and contrast.

Europa is an icy ocean world, differentiated into a floating ice shell and solid interior, separated by a global ocean.

The classical spin-orbit coupling problem considers a satellite as a single rigid body, but in the case of Europa, the existence of the subsurface ocean enables independent motion of the ice shell and solid interior.

This paper explores the spin-orbit coupling problem for Europa from a dynamical perspective, yielding illuminating analytical and numerical results. We determine that the spin behavior of Europa is influenced by processes not captured by the classical single rigid body spin-orbit coupling analysis.

The tidal locking process for Europa is governed by the strength of gravity-gradient coupling between the ice shell and solid interior, with qualitatively different behavior depending on the scale of this effect. In this coupled rigid model, the shell can potentially undergo large angular displacements from the solid interior, and the coupling plays an outsize role in the dynamical evolution of the moon, even without incorporating the dissipative effects of shell non-rigidity.

This work extends classical spin-orbit coupling analysis to the icy ocean worlds, lending a new perspective for dynamically exploring the rotational history of Europa and other similarly differentiated bodies in the outer solar system.

Ethan Burnett, Paul Hayne

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2302.13226 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2302.13226v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Ethan Burnett
[v1] Sun, 26 Feb 2023 03:38:25 UTC (6,019 KB)

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