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Tectonic settings at Ménec Fossae and Thrace Macula on Europa: Insights on the structure of the ice shell and identification of the youngest terrains

Presentation #210.02D in the session Ocean Worlds: Tectonics, Surfaces, and Ionospheres (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Tectonic settings at Ménec Fossae and Thrace Macula on Europa: Insights on the structure of the ice shell and identification of the youngest terrains

Faults and fractures present on Europa’s surface have the potential to introduce fresh material originating from shallow reservoirs within the ice shell or the subsurface ocean. The interaction between the subsurface ocean and the surface is believed to influence the formation of chaos terrains, which in turn impact the emplacement and exposure of buried material and fresh volatiles. As a result, these chaos terrains are considered prime targets for the upcoming Europa Clipper and JUICE missions, aiming to assess the astrobiological potential of Europa. Through analyses of Galileo Solid State Imager (SSI) data and newly produced Digital Terrain Models (DTMs), we conducted a comprehensive investigation of two distinct areas: Ménec Fossae (MF) and Thrace Macula (TM). MF, located within the region known as Libya Linea, exhibits a diverse range of geological features within a relatively small area. Our hypothesis suggests that the region’s geological characteristics were shaped by transtensional tectonic activity, characterized by strike-slip motion with an extensional component. This activity is interpreted to be closely associated with shallow subsurface water, consistent with the overall morphology, topography, and the presence of chaos terrains and double ridges in the study area. Consequently, our findings support the existence of widespread shallow water reservoirs within Europa’s ice shell. TM, situated at the intersection of Agenor Linea and Libya Linea, remains an area of limited understanding. It is bounded by pre-existing strike-slip faults, which play a crucial role in constraining its emplacement and distribution. By establishing a chronological sequence of events, we propose that the formation of Agenor Linea preceded that of Libya Linea, followed by the formation of TM. Subsequently, strike-slip tectonic activity driven by Libya Linea displaced a portion of TM. The upwelling of subsurface material along faults that postdate the formation of TM is of particular interest, as it likely represents the freshest material that could be investigated by the Europa Clipper and JUICE missions in this specific region.

Our findings pertaining to MF and TM provide valuable insights into their respective tectonic settings and have significant implications for our understanding of Europa’s ice shell structure (in the case of MF) and the identification of the youngest terrains (in the case of TM). These all represent major considerations for the upcoming JUICE and Europa Clipper missions.

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