Jupiter’s moon, Europa, has signs of plate tectonics visible on its surface with the presence of a series of cracks. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute
A study conducted by Brown University in the United States has provided more evidence that the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa experiences similar plate tectonics to what we see on Earth. Plate tectonic activity is a strong indication that there is the presence of a subsurface ocean, which could have major implications for the possibility of life surviving beneath the icy surface.
By conducting a series of computer models, a team of researchers showed that subduction is physically possible on Europa’s surface. Subduction occurs when a tectonic plate slides underneath another and sinks into the planet’s interior. This work compliments the previous analysis of the moon’s geology, as there was regions discovered that showed the shell to be expanding in a way that resembles the mid-ocean spreading ridges on Earth.
“We have this evidence of extension and spreading, so the question becomes where does that material go?” says Brandon Johnson, an assistant professor at Brown University’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. “On Earth, the answer is subduction zones. What we show is that ...