Europa Oceania

Chaotic terrain on Europa

Chaotic terrain on Europa. Credit: NASA/JPL/ASU

Nov 18, 2011

Do the features on Europa indicate subsurface lakes?

I care not what the sailors say:
All those dreadful thunder-stones,
All that storm that blots the day
Can but show that Heaven yawns;
Great Europa played the fool
That changed a lover for a bull.
— William Butler Yeats

In December 1995, after a six year journey, the Galileo spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter. Upon completion of its mission, the 320 kilogram probe was sent into the Jovian atmosphere to be incinerated. NASA scientists feared that, once its fuel supply was exhausted and it could no longer make orbital corrections, Galileo might randomly crash into one of Jupiter’s moons. They were especially concerned about Europa.

Planetary scientists were surprised by their first sight of Europa when Voyager 1 flew by in March 1979, followed by Voyager 2 in July: the moon seemed to be completely encased in water ice. They were also surprised when Europa exhibited few craters. Instead, its surface is dominated by sinuous channels, or “rilles,” that extend for thousands of kilometers in some cases. Complex cycloid formations, called “flexi” also mystified NASA engineers. What could create such exotic structures? As of this writing, that question has yet to be answered by mission analysts.

According to a recent press release, It is now thought that there are lakes of water beneath the ice crust, just above a salty ocean. Computer simulations indicate that there is a multi-kilometer deep shell of water ice floating on top of the sea. A “decoupled” surface is supposed to experience periodic deformation because movement of the ice creates stress cracks, allowing gigantic rafts to form. They are said to float around Europa, crashing into each other as heat from the interior disturbs their motion.

A best guess from conventional sciences is that Europa’s hot core is due to gravity. Jupiter is said to be “kneading” the moon, creating so much friction that the subsurface ice melts. There are chaotic formations on Europa, as well. All regions on Europa are complexes of parallel and side-by-side grooves with no indications of fracturing. Can repeatedly breaking ice produce extensive parallel grooves with levees?

“Cracking” on Europa continues to be the official interpretation, although high resolution images contradict that assumption. The larger channels are smooth, with a constant channel width, sometimes for over a thousand kilometers. In an Electric Universe, such features are not surprising. An electric arc, flowing across the surface, can be “pinched” by its magnetic field into a thin filament that draws other filaments into parallel alignment.

Europa’s rilles have no analog to ice cracks on Earth. Ice breaks chaotically, so variations in thickness and composition that repeat over long distances should not be expected. Yet, repetitive patterns are observed on Europa. The swirls and loops that cover the moon have been duplicated in the laboratory using plasma discharge equipment.

Computer simulations that rely on tides, interior heating, or other routine, Earth-like phenomena are not taking into account the most powerful force in nature: electricity. Europa’s liquid ocean is most likely a data modeling illusion.

Stephen Smith

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