Massive fields of 15 meter tall ice spikes on Europa

A team led by scientists from Cardiff University in Wales predicts that fields of sharp ice growing to almost 15 meters tall could be scattered across the equatorial regions of Europa.

The hazardous obstacles are known as ‘penitentes’ will need to be avoided before any probe can touch down on Europa’s surface.

Nature Geoscience – Formation of metre-scale bladed roughness on Europa’s surface by ablation of ice

On Earth, the sublimation of massive ice deposits at equatorial latitudes under cold and dry conditions in the absence of any liquid melt leads to the formation of spiked and bladed textures eroded into the surface of the ice. These sublimation-sculpted blades are known as penitentes. For this process to take place on another planet, the ice must be sufficiently volatile to sublimate under surface conditions and diffusive processes that act to smooth the topography must operate more slowly. Here we calculate sublimation rates of water ice across the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. We find that surface sublimation rates exceed those of erosion by space weathering processes in Europa’s equatorial belt (latitudes below 23°), and that conditions would favor penitente growth. We estimate that penitentes on Europa could reach 15 m in depth with a spacing of 7.5 m near the equator, on average, if they were to have developed across the interval permitted by Europa’s mean surface age. Although available images of Europa have insufficient resolution to detect surface roughness at the multi-meter scale, radar and thermal data are consistent with our interpretation. We suggest that penitentes could pose a hazard to a future lander on Europa.

10 thoughts on “Massive fields of 15 meter tall ice spikes on Europa”

  1. Europa is the girl from ancient Greek myths that gave her name to the continent. And to the moon of Jupiter. Nevertheless, there is no confusion between them in English, given one is Europe (the continent) and the other, Europa (the mythological girl, and most often the moon). But in other languages there might be. AFAIK in Spanish ‘Europa’ can refer to the moon, the girl and the continent. Is that the case in Portuguese?

    Reply
  2. Europa is the girl from ancient Greek myths that gave her name to the continent. And to the moon of Jupiter.Nevertheless there is no confusion between them in English given one is Europe (the continent) and the other Europa (the mythological girl and most often the moon).But in other languages there might be. AFAIK in Spanish ‘Europa’ can refer to the moon the girl and the continent. Is that the case in Portuguese?

    Reply
  3. Europa is the girl from ancient Greek myths that gave her name to the continent. And to the moon of Jupiter.

    Nevertheless, there is no confusion between them in English, given one is Europe (the continent) and the other, Europa (the mythological girl, and most often the moon).

    But in other languages there might be. AFAIK in Spanish ‘Europa’ can refer to the moon, the girl and the continent. Is that the case in Portuguese?

    Reply
  4. This is pretty much as Stanislaw Lem described the surface of Titan on “Fiasco”: a rugged terrain made of endless fractured ravines and spiky mounds and peaks. Curious that Europa seems to be so flat and smooth over many big regions, that’s what tipped off astronomers it could host an ocean below the ice. But that appearance can be due to pictures with not enough resolution.

    Reply
  5. This is pretty much as Stanislaw Lem described the surface of Titan on Fiasco””: a rugged terrain made of endless fractured ravines and spiky mounds and peaks.Curious that Europa seems to be so flat and smooth over many big regions”””” that’s what tipped off astronomers it could host an ocean below the ice. But that appearance can be due to pictures with not enough resolution.”””

    Reply
  6. This is pretty much as Stanislaw Lem described the surface of Titan on “Fiasco”: a rugged terrain made of endless fractured ravines and spiky mounds and peaks.

    Curious that Europa seems to be so flat and smooth over many big regions, that’s what tipped off astronomers it could host an ocean below the ice. But that appearance can be due to pictures with not enough resolution.

    Reply
  7. Europa is the girl from ancient Greek myths that gave her name to the continent. And to the moon of Jupiter. Nevertheless, there is no confusion between them in English, given one is Europe (the continent) and the other, Europa (the mythological girl, and most often the moon). But in other languages there might be. AFAIK in Spanish ‘Europa’ can refer to the moon, the girl and the continent. Is that the case in Portuguese?

    Reply
  8. Europa is the girl from ancient Greek myths that gave her name to the continent. And to the moon of Jupiter.Nevertheless there is no confusion between them in English given one is Europe (the continent) and the other Europa (the mythological girl and most often the moon).But in other languages there might be. AFAIK in Spanish ‘Europa’ can refer to the moon the girl and the continent. Is that the case in Portuguese?

    Reply
  9. This is pretty much as Stanislaw Lem described the surface of Titan on “Fiasco”: a rugged terrain made of endless fractured ravines and spiky mounds and peaks. Curious that Europa seems to be so flat and smooth over many big regions, that’s what tipped off astronomers it could host an ocean below the ice. But that appearance can be due to pictures with not enough resolution.

    Reply
  10. This is pretty much as Stanislaw Lem described the surface of Titan on Fiasco””: a rugged terrain made of endless fractured ravines and spiky mounds and peaks.Curious that Europa seems to be so flat and smooth over many big regions”””” that’s what tipped off astronomers it could host an ocean below the ice. But that appearance can be due to pictures with not enough resolution.”””

    Reply

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