Plate tectonics seen on Europa

by Timothy Oleson
Monday, January 5, 2015

Credit: Noah Kroese, I:NK.

Earth is no longer the only body in the solar system where plate tectonics operates, according to new research reported in Nature Geoscience. Jupiter’s moon Europa has moving crustal plates too, but the plates are made of ice instead of rock. Simon Kattenhorn of the University of Idaho and Louise Prockter of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory found evidence in images taken by the Galileo spacecraft of subduction-zone-like features where huge slabs of rigid surface ice appear to be subsumed into a thick layer of warmer ice below. Along with existing indications of strike-slip faulting and extensional features similar to Earth’s mid-ocean ridges, the results suggest Europa has all the necessary ingredients for plate tectonics.

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