Report

Formation of Cycloidal Features on Europa

Science  17 Sep 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5435, pp. 1899-1902
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5435.1899

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Abstract

Cycloidal patterns are widely distributed on the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. Tensile cracks may have developed such a pattern in response to diurnal variations in tidal stress in Europa's outer ice shell. When the tensile strength of the ice is reached, a crack may occur. Propagating cracks would move across an ever-changing stress field, following a curving path to a place and time where the tensile stress was insufficient to continue the propagation. A few hours later, when the stress at the end of the crack again exceeded the strength, propagation would continue in a new direction. Thus, one arcuate segment of the cycloidal chain would be produced during each day on Europa. For this model to work, the tensile strength of Europa's ice crust must be less than 40 kilopascals, and there must be a thick fluid layer below the ice to allow sufficient tidal amplitude.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: hoppa{at}lpl.arizona.edu

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