Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Geometry and spatial distribution of lenticulae on Europa

  • Author(s): Culha, C
  • Manga, M
  • et al.

© 2016 Elsevier Inc. The surface of Europa contains several types of roughly elliptical features, collectively called lenticulae. Lenticulae may have positive relief (domes) or negative relief (pits), may disrupt the crust (chaos), or discolor the surface (spots); some lenticulae have attributes of both domes and chaos (dome/chaos). We map the location, dimensions and shapes of all lenticulae and their interactions with other lenticulae and lineaments. We find that (1) pits and domes have similar sizes; (2) chaos are larger than the other lenticulae; (3) pits are clustered within the trailing antijovian quadrant and the leading subjovian quadrant whereas domes, dome/chaos, and chaos terrains are more uniformly distributed; (4) the areal density for all lenticulae is not uniform; (5) lenticulae do not divert the path of younger lineaments such as ridges. Taken together, these observations are consistent with conceptual models in which lenticulae are created by intrusion of liquid water bodies, or convection within, the ice shell. Additionally, the observations are consistent with the notion that each type of lenticula is a surface expression of dynamics within the ice shell at a different stage of lenticulae evolution. The similar size and shape of pits and domes suggests that one may evolve into the other. Because domes are more numerous and more uniformly distributed than pits, they are more likely to represent the end stage of this evolution, assuming the end-stage leaves a longer-lasting surface expression. Models also predict that larger features are more likely to disrupt the crust, which is consistent with dome/chaos and chaos being larger than pits and domes. We find no examples of lineaments offsetting pits but lineaments do cross some chaos. Pits also have a preferred northwest-southeast elongation, whereas domes, dome/chaos, and chaos do not have a preferred orientation. If lenticulae orientation is influenced by crustal stress, then pits may have formed during a shorter time interval than the other features. As a result, pits may sample a shorter, more recent time period than domes, dome/chaos, and chaos, consistent with pits being the earliest stage in the evolution of lenticulae. We find no strong evidence that lineaments are deflected by lenticulae, implying either that the stresses created by lenticulae are too small to influence lineaments, or that the complete evolution of lenticulae occurs on a time scale that is short compared to the time between the formation of lineaments at a given location.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC Academic Senate's Open Access Policy. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
Current View