Icy Worlds

Oceanography Of Ice-Covered Moons

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
January 29, 2024
Filed under , , ,
Oceanography Of Ice-Covered Moons
Confirmed, tentative, and theoretical ocean worlds in the outer solar system (not to scale). Additional information about the moons can be found in Supplemental Tables 1 and 2. Internal structure models for confirmed ocean worlds adapted with permission from Vance et al. (2018). — Annual Review of Marine Science

NASA-supported scientists have published a review of current knowledge regarding how ice-covered moons operate compared to Earth. The paper focuses on the interaction between ice and the liquid ocean of a celestial body, and how this interplay affects the potential habitability of icy ocean worlds.

Studying the physical processes of oceanography on icy ocean worlds can also challenge assumptions about our own oceans here on Earth. Some phenomena witnessed in Earth’s oceans, such as tides, are thought to be shared between our planet and worlds like Europa. However, some mechanisms could be more significant on Europa due to its orbit around the giant planet Jupiter.

The new paper reviews the state of knowledge of mechanisms in oceanography on Earth and how these mechanisms might operate on other bodies in the Solar System. This knowledge will inform future missions to study both the physical properties and habitability of icy ocean worlds.

The paper, “The Physical Oceanography of Ice-Covered Moons,” was published in the journal Annual Review (open access).


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) 🖖🏻