Title: The librations, shape, and icy shell of Europa
Authors: Van Hoolst, Tim ×
Rambaux, N
Karatekin, O.
Dehant, V.
Rivoldini, A. #
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Elsevier Science B.V.
Series Title: Icarus vol:195 issue:1 pages:386-399
Abstract: Europa, the smallest of the Galilean satellites, has a young icy
surface and most likely contains an internal ocean. The primary objective
of possible future missions to Europa is the unambiguous
detection and characterization of a subsurface ocean. The thickness of
the overlying icy shell provides important information on the thermal
evolution of the satellite and on the interaction between the ocean and
the surface, the latter being fundamental for astrobiology. However,
the thickness is not well known, and estimates range from several
hundred of meters to some ten of kilometers. Here, we investigate the
use of libration (rotation variation) observations to study the interior structure of
Europa and in particular its icy shell. A dynamical libration model is developed, which includes gravitational coupling between the icy
shell and the heavy solid interior. The amplitude of the main libration signal at 3.55~days (the orbital period) is shown to depend on Europa's shape and structure. Models of the interior structure of Europa are constructed and the equatorial flattening of the internal layers, which are key parameters for the libration, are calculated by assuming that Europa is in hydrostatic equilibrium. Europa's flattened shape is assumed to be due to rotation and permanent tides, and we extend the classical Radau equation for rotationally flattened bodies to include also tidal deformation. We
show that the presence of an ocean increases the amplitude of
libration by about 10\%, depending mainly on the thickness of the
icy shell. Therefore, libration observations offer possibility of detection of a subsurface ocean in Europa and estimation of the thickness of its overlying icy shell.
ISSN: 0019-1035
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Non-KU Leuven Association publications
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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