Kattenhorn, S.A. (2002)

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Nonsynchronous rotation evidence and fracture history in the Bright Plains region, Europa


Icarus 157: 490-506.

A geologic map is presented for the Bright Plains in the Conamara Chaos region of Europa and is used to unravel a detailed fracture sequence using cross-cutting relationships and fracture mechanics principles. Fracture orientations in the Bright Plains region rotated with time, consistently in a clockwise sense. This conclusion agrees with the observations of other researchers' northern Europan hemisphere investigations, and points strongly towards the fracture sequence being controlled by the effect of nonsynchronous rotation, whereby the outer ice crust of Europa rotates slightly faster than the satellite's interior. This is convincing evidence that Europa's crust has been decoupled from the interior, possibly due to the presence of a liquid ocean beneath the crust.

Tidal stresses induced in the ice crust by the combined effects of nonsynchronous rotation and diurnal tidal flexing can be calculated using the assumption that the crust behaves elastically over relatively short time scales (i.e., no viscous relaxation of stresses). The fracture orientations in the Bright Plains area were compared to a global scale tidal stress field in order to determine the longitudes at which each fracture set developed. The fracture sequence points strongly to the Bright Plains region of the crust having rotated at least 720° (and perhaps up to 900°) with respect to the satellite's interior during the visible fracture history. This amount exceeds previously published estimates of nonsynchronous rotation. The orientations of the most recent surface fractures are incompatible with the current state of stress in the Bright Plains region, implying a period of a few thousand years since the most recent fracturing events based on existing nonsynchronous rotation rate estimates.

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This paper has been cited in the following 58 works:


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