Oxygen on Ganymede: Laboratory Studies

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Science  20 Jun 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5320, pp. 1839-1842
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5320.1839

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To test proposals for the origin of oxygen absorption bands in the visible reflectance spectrum of Ganymede, the reflectance of condensed films of pure oxygen (O2) and O2-water mixtures and the evolution of O2 from the films as a function of temperature were determined. Absorption band shapes and positions for oxygen at 26 kelvin were similar to those reported for Ganymede, whereas those for the mixtures were slightly shifted. The band intensity dropped by more than two orders of magnitude when the ice mixture was warmed to 100 kelvin, although about 20 percent of the O2 remained trapped in the ice, which suggested that at these temperatures O2 molecules dissolve in the ice rather than aggregate in clusters or bubbles. The experiments suggest that the absorption bands in Ganymede's spectrum were not produced in the relatively warm surface of the satellite but in a much colder source. Solid O2 may exist in a cold subsurface layer or in an atmospheric haze.

  • * Present address: Instituto de Tecnologı́a Quı́onica, Güemes 3450, 3000 Santa Fé, Argentina.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: raul{at}

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