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The Rotation of Europa

Abstract

Theoretical predictions of non-synchronous rotation and of polar wander on Europa have been tested by comparing tectonic features observed in Voyager and Galileo spacecraft images with tidal stresses. Evidence for non-synchronous rotation comes from studying changes in global scale lineaments formed over time, from the character of strike-slip faults, and from comparison of distinctively shaped cycloidal cracks with the longitudes at which such shapes should have formed, in theory. The study of cycloids constrains the rotation period (relative to the direction of Jupiter) to less than 250 000 years, while direct comparison of the orientation of Europa in Voyager and Galileo images shows the rotation is slow, with a period of >12 000 years. Comparison of strike-slip faults with their theoretical locations of formation provides evidence for substantial polar wander, supported by the distribution of various thermally produced features.

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Greenberg, R., Hoppa, G.V., Geissler, P. et al. The Rotation of Europa. Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy 83, 35–47 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020118427477

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020118427477

  • Europa
  • rotation
  • tides