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Cryovolcanism on Ocean Worlds Near and Far

Presentation #501.03 in the session “Prize Announcements and Winners Q&A”.

Published onOct 03, 2021
Cryovolcanism on Ocean Worlds Near and Far

We are familiar with volcanism as a fundamental process that has shaped the surfaces and evolution of the terrestrial planets. However, cryovolcanism, the eruption of briny aqueous solutions, crystal-liquid slurries and/or vapor and crystalline ice, has shaped the surfaces of many of the ocean worlds and the dwarf planets in our solar system. From the enigmatic faculae or “bright spots” on dwarf planet Ceres, to the viscous cryolava domes and putative plumes on Jupiter’s moon Europa, cryovolcanism has played a significant role in the cycling of water and energy between the interiors and surfaces of these bodies and has often been presented as evidence for the existence of internal liquid reservoirs or subsurface oceans on icy worlds. Recent work has shown that cryovolcanism may also shape the surfaces of icy extrasolar planets. Similar to the icy bodies in our outer solar system, cryovolcanic eruptions on H2O-rich exoplanets that orbit beyond the snowlines of their respective planetary systems could indicate the presence of internal liquid reservoirs, possibly subsurface oceans. In this talk I will review my work studying cryovolcanic processes on the oceans worlds and dwarf planets in our solar system, discuss prospects for cryovolcanic activity on extrasolar ocean worlds, and consider the potentially important role that cryovolcanism could play in creating habitable niches on ocean worlds throughout the universe.

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