Strike-slip fault patterns on Europa: Obliquity or polar wander?

Alyssa Rose Rhoden, Terry A. Hurford, Michael Manga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Variations in diurnal tidal stress due to Europa's eccentric orbit have been considered as the driver of strike-slip motion along pre-existing faults, but obliquity and physical libration have not been taken into account. The first objective of this work is to examine the effects of obliquity on the predicted global pattern of fault slip directions based on a tidal-tectonic formation model. Our second objective is to test the hypothesis that incorporating obliquity can reconcile theory and observations without requiring polar wander, which was previously invoked to explain the mismatch found between the slip directions of 192 faults on Europa and the global pattern predicted using the eccentricity-only model. We compute predictions for individual, observed faults at their current latitude, longitude, and azimuth with four different tidal models: eccentricity only, eccentricity plus obliquity, eccentricity plus physical libration, and a combination of all three effects. We then determine whether longitude migration, presumably due to non-synchronous rotation, is indicated in observed faults by repeating the comparisons with and without obliquity, this time also allowing longitude translation. We find that a tidal model including an obliquity of 1.2°, along with longitude migration, can predict the slip directions of all observed features in the survey. However, all but four faults can be fit with only 1° of obliquity so the value we find may represent the maximum departure from a lower time-averaged obliquity value. Adding physical libration to the obliquity model improves the accuracy of predictions at the current locations of the faults, but fails to predict the slip directions of six faults and requires additional degrees of freedom. The obliquity model with longitude migration is therefore our preferred model. Although the polar wander interpretation cannot be ruled out from these results alone, the obliquity model accounts for all observations with a value consistent with theoretical expectations and cycloid modeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)636-647
Number of pages12
JournalIcarus
Volume211
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

Keywords

  • Europa
  • Rotational dynamics
  • Tectonics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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