Europa is under a constant gravitational assault. As it orbits, Europa's icy surface heaves and falls with the pull of Jupiter's gravity, creating enough heat, to support a ocean beneath the moon's solid shell, researchers said.
    
Experiments by geoscientists from Brown and Columbia universities suggest that this process, called tidal dissipation, could create far more heat in Europa's ice than scientists had previously assumed.
    
The work could ultimately help researchers to better estimate the thickness of moon's outer shell.

"There was clearly some sort of tectonic activity - things moving around and cracking. There were also places on Europa that look like melt-through or mushy ice," said Christine McCarthy, a faculty member at Columbia University who led the research as a graduate student at Brown.

The only way to create enough heat for these active processes so far from the Sun is through tidal dissipation.
    
Working with Reid Cooper, professor at Brown, McCarthy loaded ice samples into a compression apparatus. She subjected the samples to cyclical loads similar to those acting on Europa's ice shell.

 

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