Prerequisites for explosive cryovolcanism on dwarf planet-class Kuiper belt objects

M. Neveu, Steven Desch, Everett Shock, C. R. Glein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Explosive extrusion of cold material from the interior of icy bodies, or cryovolcanism, has been observed on Enceladus and, perhaps, Europa, Triton, and Ceres. It may explain the observed evidence for a young surface on Charon (Pluto's surface is masked by frosts). Here, we evaluate prerequisites for cryovolcanism on dwarf planet-class Kuiper belt objects (KBOs). We first review the likely spatial and temporal extent of subsurface liquid, proposed mechanisms to overcome the negative buoyancy of liquid water in ice, and the volatile inventory of KBOs. We then present a new geochemical equilibrium model for volatile exsolution and its ability to drive upward crack propagation. This novel approach bridges geophysics and geochemistry, and extends geochemical modeling to the seldom-explored realm of liquid water at subzero temperatures. We show that carbon monoxide (CO) is a key volatile for gas-driven fluid ascent; whereas CO<inf>2</inf> and sulfur gases only play a minor role. N<inf>2</inf>, CH<inf>4</inf>, and H<inf>2</inf> exsolution may also drive explosive cryovolcanism if hydrothermal activity produces these species in large amounts (a few percent with respect to water). Another important control on crack propagation is the internal structure: a hydrated core makes explosive cryovolcanism easier, but an undifferentiated crust does not. We briefly discuss other controls on ascent such as fluid freezing on crack walls, and outline theoretical advances necessary to better understand cryovolcanic processes. Finally, we make testable predictions for the 2015 New Horizons flyby of the Pluto-Charon system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-64
Number of pages17
JournalIcarus
Volume246
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 5 2014

Fingerprint

dwarf planets
Kuiper belt
Charon
Pluto (planet)
explosive
Pluto
planet
crack propagation
ascent
exsolution
liquid
liquids
subzero temperature
Enceladus
water
Europa
fluid
fluids
geophysics
hydrothermal activity

Keywords

  • Charon
  • formation
  • Interiors
  • Pluto
  • Satellites
  • Volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

Cite this

Prerequisites for explosive cryovolcanism on dwarf planet-class Kuiper belt objects. / Neveu, M.; Desch, Steven; Shock, Everett; Glein, C. R.

In: Icarus, Vol. 246, 05.04.2014, p. 48-64.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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