Brief Communications

Nature 405, 637 (8 June 2000) | doi:10.1038/35015170

Planetary science: Tectonics and water on Europa

Eric J. Gaidos1 & Francis Nimmo2

The tectonics of Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, are complex. This satellite probably hosts a subsurface water ocean, but the thickness of the outer ice crust is poorly constrained and the episodic presence of liquid water at the surface is debated. We argue that some surface features of Europa are formed by soft ice that is heated by viscous dissipation of tidal motion along faults, and do not depend on a shallow ocean. Our model suggests that transient pockets of liquid water or brine could form at shallow depths in the crust.

  1. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, California 91109, USA
  2. Bullard Laboratories, Department of Earth Sciences, Madingley Rise, Madingley Road, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0EZ, UK