Churning icy plates explain young surface of Jupiter's moon
Ted Stryk, Galileo Project/JPL/NASA
A frozen world hundreds of millions of kilometers away is starting to look a bit like home. This year researchers discovered active plate tectonics reshaping the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. The finding marks the first evidence of active plate tectonics on another world (SN: 10/4/14, p. 10).
The researchers made the discovery while scrutinizing an area of Europa’s surface mapped by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 1998. In the moon’s northern hemisphere, a hunk of landscape the size of New Jersey had vanished. Like a torn photograph placed so the pieces overlap, Europa’s crisscrossing surface fractures didn’t properly line up.