Research

Forming Europa’s Bands

Streaks of red bands marking Europa's surface

Jupiter’s icy moons, Europa and Ganymede, are home to subsurface oceans. These moons also experience strong tidal forces from their parent planet and sibling moons that squeeze and deform them over time. A new study focuses on the bands, seen in red in the top image of Europa, that form as a result of these deformations. By simulating (bottom image) both the convective currents within the Europan ocean and the deformation of the ice over time, scientists are able to study how these geological surface features may have formed. Over the course of about a million years, material from the interior ocean works its way up into the center of a band. Because this process takes so long, the researchers point out that any attempt to collect material from the bands will yield “fossil” ocean material – essentially a glimpse of Europa’s ocean as it existed a million years ago rather than how it exists today! (Image credit: NASA; image and research credit: S. Howell and R. Pappalardo, source; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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