Impact Features on Europa: Results of the Galileo Europa Mission (GEM)

Jeffrey M. Moore, Erik Asphaug, Michael J.S. Belton, Beau Bierhaus, H. Herbert Breneman, Shawn M. Brooks, Clark R. Chapman, Frank C. Chuang, Geoffrey C. Collins, Bernd Giese, Ronald Greeley, James W. Head, Steve Kadel, Kenneth P. Klaasen, James E. Klemaszewski, Kari P. Magee, John Moreau, David Morrison, Gerhard Neukum, Robert T. PappalardoCynthia B. Phillips, Paul M. Schenk, David A. Senske, Robert J. Sullivan, Elizabeth P. Turtle, Kevinm K. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations

Abstract

During the Galileo Europa Mission (GEM), impact features on Europa were observed with improved resolution and coverage was compared with Voyager or the Galileo nominal mission. We surveyed all primary impact features >4 km in diameter seen on Europa (through orbit E19). The transition from simple to complex crater morphology occurs at a diameter of about 5 km. We calculated the transient crater dimensions and excavation depths of all craters surveyed. The largest impact feature (Tyre) probably had a transient crater depth between 5 and 10 km and transported material to the surface from a depth of not greater than ~4 km. Craters <30 km in diameter, such as Manannàn and Pwyll, formed within targets whose immediate subcrater materials exhibited nonfluid behavior on time scales of the impact event, and that are capable, especially in the case of Pwyll, of supporting significant local topographic loads such as a central peak. These craters are nevertheless quite shallow, with very subdued floors, and we suspect that Manannàn and Pwyll's small depth-to-diameter ratios are due to the isostatic adjustment of large-scale topography, facilitated by warm, plastically deformable ice at depth. Morphological similarities between Callanish and Tyre strongly imply that conclusions reached regarding Callanish in J. Moore et al. (1998, Icarus135, 127-145) also apply to Tyre, which was that Callanish is the consequence of impact into target materials that are mechanically very weak at depth. New evidence that Callanish's circumferential rings formed before the proximal ejecta became immobile implies a low-viscosity substrate at the time of impact. We also report additional evidence that a component of the proximal ejecta of Callanish was emplaced as a fluid. Our observations of Pwyll secondaries support the conclusions stated in Alpert and Melosh (1999) that impacts on icy bodies eject smaller fragments and that fragment size decreases more gradually as velocity increases than observed for impacts on silicate bodies at equivalent ejection velocities. Examination of Pwyll's secondary craters reveals azimuthal variations, with ejecta fragment sizes being larger near the center of a ray than off the ray. Our initial analysis of the characteristic size distribution of Pwyll's secondary craters shows that they form a differential slope slightly shallower than -4. Similar steep slopes for small craters on Ganymede imply that small craters there are mostly formed by secondary impact, and the jovian system may thus be deficient in small impacts relative to the environment of the terrestrial planets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-111
Number of pages19
JournalIcarus
Volume151
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2001

Keywords

  • Cratering
  • Europa
  • Satellites of Jupiter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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