How earthquakes shape the smooth terrain of the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn, scientists have found
(ORDO NEWS) — The mysteries of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s icy moons are beginning to be cleared up thanks to a new NASA study that offers a simple explanation for the origin of smooth landforms on their surfaces.
The huge gravity of the gas giants causes earthquakes on their moons, which in turn can lead to the formation of landslides and surprisingly flat areas.
In general terms, the surfaces of icy satellites such as Europa, Ganymede, and Enceladus contain steep ridges surrounded by smooth, flat areas.
Previously, scientists assumed that smooth areas arise due to fluid flowing from ice volcanoes. However, NASA research shows that this process is linked to lunar quakes that cause landslides and flatten the landscape.
The researchers measured the dimensions of steep ridges thought to be the edges of tectonic faults formed when the surface breaks along a fault line, where one side drops.
Given measurement data in seismic models, the scientists estimated the strength of past “moon” quakes and found they could be powerful enough to kick up debris that then cascades downslope, dissipating and leveling the landscape.
This discovery not only reveals the mechanism behind the origin of smooth landforms on icy moons, but may also help scientists better understand the geological activity of other celestial bodies in the solar system.
The study was published in the journal Icarus and was one of the important steps towards deciphering the mysteries of the icy worlds of Jupiter and Saturn.
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