Year in review: Tectonics active on Europa | Science News

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Year in review: Tectonics active on Europa

Churning icy plates explain young surface of Jupiter's moon

11:00am, December 16, 2014

ICY EUROPA  Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa has a shifting exterior analogous to Earth’s plate tectonics.


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.

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