Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New study of Europa may explain mysterious ice domes, places to search for evidence of life

03.09.2003


A new University of Colorado at Boulder study of Jupiter’s moon Europa may help explain the origin of the giant ice domes peppering its surface and the implications for discovering evidence of past or present life forms there.



Assistant Professor Robert Pappalardo and doctoral student Amy Barr previously believed the mysterious domes may be formed by blobs of ice from the interior of the frozen shell that were being pushed upward by thermal upwelling from warmer ice underneath. Europa is believed to harbor an ocean beneath its icy surface.

But the scientists now think the dome creation also requires small amounts of impurities, such as sodium chloride or sulfuric acid. Basically the equivalent of table salt or battery acid, these compounds melt ice at low temperatures, allowing warmer, more pristine blobs of ice to force the icy surface up in places, creating the domes.


"We have been trying for some time to understand how these ice blobs can push up through the frozen shell of Europa, which is likely about 13 miles thick," said Pappalardo of the astrophysical and planetary sciences department. "Our models now show that a combination of upwelling warm ice in the frozen shell’s interior, combined with small amounts of impurities such as sodium chloride or sulfuric acid, would provide enough of a force to form these domes."

A paper on the subject co-authored by Pappalardo and Barr was presented at the annual Division of Planetary Sciences Meeting held Sept. 2 through Sept. 6 in Monterey, Calif. DPS is an arm of the American Astronomical Society. The meeting schedule is available at http://dps03.arc.nasa.gov/administrative/schedule/index.html.

Europa appears to have strong tidal action as it elliptically orbits Jupiter – strong enough "to squeeze the moon" and heat its interior, said Pappalardo. "Warm ice blobs rise upward through the ice shell toward the colder surface, melting out saltier regions in their path. The less dense blobs can continue rising all the way to the surface to create the observed domes."

The domes are huge – some more than four miles in diameter and 300 feet high – and are found in clusters on Europa’s surface, said Barr, who did much of the modeling.

"We are excited about our research, because we think it now is possible that any present or past life or even just the chemistry of the ocean may be lifted to the surface, forming these domes. It essentially would be like an elevator ride for microbes."

Barr likened the upwelling of warmer ice from the inner ice shell to its surface to a pot of boiling spaghetti sauce. "The burner under the pan sends the hottest sauce to the top, creating the bubbles at the surface," she said. "The trouble is Europa’s icy skin is as cold and as hard as a rock."

The idea that either small amounts of salt or sulfuric acid might help to create Europa’s domes was Pappalardo’s, who knew about similar domes on Earth that form in clumps in arid regions. On Earth, it is salt that is buoyant enough to move up through cracks and fissures in rock formations to form dome clusters at the surface.

"In addition, infrared and color images taken of Europa by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft seem to indicate some of the ice on the surface of these domes is contaminated. Impurities seen at the surface are clues to the internal composition of the Jovian moon, telling of a salty ice shell," he said.

"The surface of Europa is constantly being blasted by radiation from Jupiter, which likely precludes any life on the moon’s surface," said Barr. "But a spacecraft might be able to detect signs of microbes just under the surface."

Both Pappalardo and Barr also are affiliated with CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The project was funded by NASA’s Exobiology Program and Graduate Student Research Program.

Pappalardo recently served on a National Research Council panel that reaffirmed a spacecraft should be launched in the coming decade with the goal of orbiting Europa. He currently is part of a NASA team developing goals for the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter mission.

The scientific objectives of the mission probably will include confirming the presence of an ocean at Europa, remotely measuring the composition of the surface and scouting out potential landing sites for a follow-on lander mission.

Robert Pappalardo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.colorado.edu/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Nanotechnology for energy materials: Electrodes like leaf veins
27.09.2016 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie GmbH

nachricht First quantum photonic circuit with electrically driven light source
27.09.2016 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New welding process joins dissimilar sheets better

Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of light metals.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have now developed two new process variants that will considerably expand the areas of application for friction stir welding.
Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovations.

Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of...

Im Focus: First quantum photonic circuit with electrically driven light source

Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.

Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

Im Focus: Complex hardmetal tools out of the 3D printer

For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.

Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

European Health Forum Gastein 2016 kicks off today

28.09.2016 | Event News

Laser use for neurosurgery and biofabrication - LaserForum 2016 focuses on medical technology

27.09.2016 | Event News

Experts from industry and academia discuss the future mobile telecommunications standard 5G

23.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

New imaging technique in Alzheimer’s disease - opens up possibilities for new drug development

28.09.2016 | Medical Engineering

Innovate coating extends the life of materials for industrial use

28.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

Blockchain Set to Transform the Financial Services Market

28.09.2016 | Business and Finance

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>