PerspectivePlanetary Science

Probing Europa's Third Dimension

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Science  15 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5400, pp. 338-339
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5400.338

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Jupiter's moons are heated by tidal forces induced by its huge gravitational field. The results can be spectacular, as with Io's highly active volcanic behavior. Europa, a moon farther away and heated less, may support a water ocean larger than those on Earth. In his Perspective, Chapman discusses recent efforts to understand Europa's surface by studying the impact craters that have been observed there. The appearance of many craters could be explained if the surface ice layer were 10 to 15 kilometers thick, according to recent computer simulations.