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Thickness of a Europan Ice Shell from Impact Crater Simulations

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Science  09 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5545, pp. 1326-1328
DOI: 10.1126/science.1062492

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Abstract

Several impact craters on Jupiter's satellite Europa exhibit central peaks. On the terrestrial planets, central peaks consist of fractured but competent rock uplifted during cratering. Therefore, the observation of central peaks on Europa indicates that an ice layer must be sufficiently thick that the impact events did not completely penetrate it. We conducted numerical simulations of vapor and melt production during cratering of water ice layers overlying liquid water to estimate the thickness of Europa's icy crust. Because impacts disrupt material well beyond the zone of partial melting, our simulations put a lower limit on ice thickness at the locations and times of impact. We conclude that the ice must be more than 3 to 4 kilometers thick.

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

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