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Exploring the interior of Europa with the Europa Clipper

August 29, 2023

The Galileo mission to Jupiter revealed that Europa is an ocean world. The Galileo magnetometer experiment in particular provided strong evidence for a salty subsurface ocean beneath the ice shell, likely in contact with the rocky core. Within the ice shell and ocean, a number of tectonic and geodynamic processes may operate today or have operated at some point in the past, including solid ice convection, diapirism, subsumption, and interstitial lake formation.

The science objectives of the Europa Clipper mission include the characterization of Europa’s interior; confirmation of the presence of a subsurface ocean; identification of constraints on the depth to this ocean, and on its salinity and thickness; and determination of processes of material exchange between the surface, ice shell, and ocean.

Three broad categories of investigation are planned to interrogate different aspects of the subsurface structure and properties of the ice shell and ocean: magnetic induction, subsurface radar sounding, and tidal deformation. These investigations are supplemented by several auxiliary measurements. Alone, each of these investigations will reveal unique information. Together, the synergy between these investigations will expose the secrets of the Europan interior in unprecedented detail, an essential step in evaluating the habitability of this ocean world.

Publication Year 2023
Title Exploring the interior of Europa with the Europa Clipper
DOI 10.1007/s11214-023-00990-y
Authors James Roberts, William B. McKinnon, Catherine Elder, Gabriel Tobie, John Biersteker, Duncan Young, Ryan S. Park, Gregor Steinbrügge, Francis Nimmo, Samuel Howell, Julie C. Castillo-Rogez, Morgan Cable, Jacob Abrahams, Michael T. Bland, Chase Chivers, Corey Cochrane, Andrew Dombard, Carolyn M. Ernst, Antonio Genova, Christopher Gerekos, Christopher R. Glein, Camilla Harris, Hamish Hay, Paul O. Hayne, Matthew Hedman, Hauke Hussmann, Xianzhe Jia, Krishan Khurana, Walter Kiefer, Randolph L. Kirk, Margaret Kivelson, Justin D. Lawrence, Erin J. Leonard, Jonathan Lunine, Erwan Mazarico, Thomas B. McCord, Alfred S. McEwen, Carol Paty, Lynnae Quick, Carol A. Raymond, Kurt Retherford, Lorenz Roth, Abigail Rymer, Joachim Saur, Kirk Scanlan, Dustin Schroeder, David Senske, Wencheng Shao, Krista Soderlund, Elizabeth Spiers, Marshall Styczinski, Paolo Tortora, Steven Vance, Michaela Villarreal, Benjamin Weiss, Joseph Westlake, Paul Withers, Natalie Wolfenbarger, Bonnie J. Buratti, Haje Korth, Robert Pappalardo, Interior Thematic Working Group
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Space Science Reviews
Index ID 70247962
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Astrogeology Science Center