At Centauri Dreams, Paul Gilster writes about a new book, Unmasking Europa. At issue: whether the ice covering the surface - and the ocean beneath - is thick or thin. If the geology of Europa is as active as some believe, the ice may be relatively thin. Gilster:
The issue, of course, is critical for future study. An ice sheet a hundred kilometers thick makes investigation through some kind of ‘melt-through’ probe and submarine exploration that much harder, and diminishes the chances for life. But Greenberg, a celestial mechanician, demonstrated how powerful are the tidal forces acting on the Jovian satellites, particularly Io and Europa, and how much heat they may produce. Thin ice is a model that seems well supported by Greenberg’s evidence, and one that makes the possibilities of detecting life considerably more likely.
The answer will shape the upcoming Europa Jupiter System Mission, scheduled for a 2026 arrival.
Image Credit: Michael Carroll