Europa compared to the results of electric arcs
on an aluminum-coated children's ball.
Credit: NASA/JPL and C. J. Ransom/Vemasat
Laboratory experiments reveal the
effects of electric discharges on
Jupiter's moon Europa.
Many Picture of the Day articles
have discussed the ice moon Europa.
The overwhelming conclusion, based
on observation, is that it was the
scene of cataclysmic events sometime
in the recent past. Those events
carved its surface into long,
sweeping rilles called "flexi"
that wend for thousands of
kilometers, as well as
blackened swaths that
crisscross its landscape in
multi-kilometer wide spans.
Some features in the so-called
“chaos” regions reveal that Europa
experienced heating and wrenching
forces that shattered and grooved
the ice into widely scattered,
broken jigsaw puzzle pieces. Since
the "ice rafts" are not melted, it
indicates a short-lived disturbance
of some kind.
When Voyager 2 passed by on its
way toward interstellar space,
planetary scientists were surprised
by the absence of craters on Europa.
Jupiter's gravity is supposed to
have swept up the millions of
smaller rocks and comets left over
from the Solar System's formation,
so many of them should have been
pulled into collision with the moon.
Rather than craters, a vast
network of trenches with v-shaped
cross sections and steep walls were
found. Various hypotheses about
fractures, a "decoupled crust"
floating on a vast watery ocean, and
"oozing water" brought up from
Jupiter's "tidal kneading" were
proposed in order to bring Europa's
strange topography in line with
features seen in Earth's Arctic
Ocean. Such speculations were dealt
a serious blow when the Galileo
spacecraft entered Jupiter space in
Galileo's high resolution camera
revealed smoothly cut channels that
do not look like fractures. Their
orientation disregards prior
channels, sometimes with five or six
of them stacked on top of each other
at every angle. As
electrical experiments in Dr. C.
J. Ransom's Vemasat Laboratories
have shown, this should come as no
currents flowing across a conductive
surface are "pinched" into thin
filaments by their associated
magnetic fields and draw other
filaments into parallel alignment.
The trackways often overlap each
Close-up shots of Dr. Ransom's
model, an aluminum-coated ball about
a foot in diameter, demonstrate
another result when electric arcs
strike a sphere: smaller,
perpendicular side channels created
by corona discharges as the
electricity crawled across the ball.
Also visible are loops that formed
when the electric arc blasted the
aluminum off the ball's
nonconductive plastic substructure.
Darkened, scorched areas, pits,
curving channels that appear to be
centered on Europa's poles, and a
lack of craters are all duplicated
in the Vemasat experiment. NASA's
surprises are expected by Electric
Universe advocates because plasma
behavior scales by many orders of
magnitude. From the laboratory to
the Solar System's planets and
moons, plasma is the primary
ingredient that shapes worlds.