Ion sputtering and surface erosion at Europa

W. H. Ip, D. J. Williams, R. W. McEntire, B. H. Mauk

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New results from the energetic particle detector (EPD) experiment on the Galileo mission are used to update the ion sputtering rate at Europa. It is found that the resultant gas emission rates are 5.7×1027 O2 s-1 and 9.5×1027 H2O s-1 in total if the maximum self-sputtering effect of the exospheric pickup ions is taken into consideration. This means that the surface number density of O2 molecules could be as much as 1.8×109 cm-3 and the average column density is 3.4×1015 O2 molecules cm-2. The corresponding ion production rate is on the order of 1.3×1027 ions s-1 probably leading to a plasma density of about 2000 ions cm-3 in the ionospheric wake region. The magnetospheric particle bombardment effect is also effective in redistributed mass across Europa's surface. The maximum mass redistribution rate can be estimated to be ≈80 m per 100 Myrs with the associated net erosion rate ≈20 m/100 Myrs. At the same time, mass resurfacing rate by liquid water or out-gassing could reach similar magnitude.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)829-832
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Mar 1998


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