The Plate Tectonics of Europa #SpaceSaturday «Adafruit Industries - Makers, Hackers, Artists, Designers, Engineers!

The Plate Tectonics of Europa #SpaceSaturday «Adafruit Industries – Makers, Hackers, Artists, Designers, Engineers!

above: An intricate pattern of bumps and bands called the Arachne Linea is visible in this false-color image of Europa’s surface taken by the Galileo spacecraft on September 26, 1998. New research shows that this landscape was formed by the collision of nearby tectonic plates. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute.

It took a long time for the idea of ​​plate tectonics and tectonic drift to be accepted into the mainstream. Looking back, parts of the world’s continents seem to fit together perfectly, but it’s hard to imagine parts of the planet being unimaginably large. As it turns out, things may work differently on Europa, Jupiter’s most famous moon. Here are more Centaur dreams:

A study of these three regions of Europe suggests that something is stopping the plate motion from continuing and spreading, possibly due to the nature of the surface material or the mechanism that forces the plate motions in the first place. Here’s an interesting point that has other implications for future observations by our spacecraft: Is convergence — where surface material is lost and pre-existing terrain must be reconstructed — always evident from the limited data we have? We’re going to need a lot of high-resolution images from future spacecraft to make the call on that.

There is a lot for the Europa Clipper to examine in terms of how tectonics works here, not the least of which is the question of what drives the plate motions observed so far over Europa. If plate tectonics is indeed very limited as this study suggests, what forces plate motion and then apparently stops it?

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