Jupiter’s moon’s icy “shell” could be minty and full of holes, like the Greenland ice sheet

(ORDO NEWS) — The ice of Greenland turned out to be very similar to the icy shell of Europa, Jupiter’s moon. If Europa’s ice also has cavities filled with water, then the conditions in them may be relatively favorable for the existence of life.

An analysis of radar observations of ice dynamics in Greenland made it possible to put forward a hypothesis about the formation of remarkable double ice ridges on Europa.

The polar regions of our planet have been under the close supervision of scientists for more than a decade. He pays special attention to the ice cover on land: glaciologists study the dynamics of ice sheets and the movement of glaciers, the speed of their melting, the formation of faults, melt ponds and subglacial lakes.

We still do not fully understand the complex hydrology of these ice systems, which is critical to predicting the impacts of global climate change. In particular, rising sea levels.

Meanwhile, on Jupiter’s moon Europa, it’s not land but an ocean of liquid water that’s hidden under ice. Therefore, experts on the Greenland Shield at Stanford University did not expect to see formations familiar to them in the images of a distant cosmic body.

Intrigued, they discovered that the double M-shaped ridge in the Greenland ice looked like a miniature version of the huge ridges that cross the surface of Europa.

Jupiters moons icy shell could be minty and full of holes like the Greenland ice sheet 2On the left is a panchromatic image of the double ridge on Europa (Galileo, PIA00589). On the right is an orthorectified panchromatic image of a double ridge in Greenland (WorldView-3 satellite, July 2018

The double ridges of Europe reach a height of 300 meters. Astronomers learned about their existence in the 1990s, thanks to images from the Galileo spacecraft.

Speculation has been put forward as to how they might have formed, but there was not enough change data to select the most plausible scenario. It is these data that have been accumulated for Greenland over the years of Operation IceBridge radar observations.

After analyzing these data, the authors of the study found that the famous double ridge in the shape of the letter M in northwestern Greenland was formed due to a “burst bubble” in the ice column.

Melt water from the surface of glaciers and ice sheets often seeps through cracks to the depths, where it freezes again, expanding. Under pressure, the ice breaks, and two ridges of a specific shape are formed.

Jupiters moons icy shell could be minty and full of holes like the Greenland ice sheetAn illustration of the hypothetical process of the formation of a double ice ridge on Europa

According to the authors, a similar process takes place on Europa, only water seeps from below. If this is indeed the case, then the entire “iceshell” is a more dynamic system than scientists thought. The main thing is that such a fluid cycle theoretically allows nutrient compounds from the surface to enter the subglacial ocean.

As co-author Dustin Schroeder, assistant professor of geophysics at Stanford University, explains, “Maybe in these water-filled cavities, life has a good chance of existing, because the closer to the surface, the more interesting compounds that come from space, from other satellites and from the volcanoes of Io.

As the scientists admit, their scenario for the formation of double ridges is so complicated that they would hardly have been able to come up with it without an terrestrial example or without long-term observations of the formation of ridges on Europa.

It remains to wait for data from the Clipper device , which will go to Europe in 2024. Then it will be possible to test this new hypothesis.

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