DPS 35th Meeting, 1-6 September 2003
Session 15. Other Planetary Satellites II
Poster, Highlighted on, Wednesday, September 3, 2003, 3:00-5:30pm, Sierra Ballroom I-II

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[15.02] Are There Oceans Under the Ice of Small Saturnian and Uranian Moons?

C. England (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Thermal analysis of the large outer-planetary moons (Titan, Callisto, Ganymede) argue strongly for substantial subsurface oceans if they are made up mostly of rock and ice, and if the rock exhibits radioactivity not too different from that of meteoric and lunar material [1]. For Titania, Rhea, Oberon and Iapetus (the TROI moons) with radii just over 700 km, the existence of oceans is less clear. In these bodies, a subsurface ocean may be likely if the rock has sunk to the center of the moon (i.e., the moon is differentiated) and (1) the radiogenic heating rate is on the higher end of that of lunar samples, (2) the bodies experience tidal heating, or (3) the oceans contain compounds such as ammonia that reduce the freezing point of the aqueous environment. A combination of these occurrences would weigh for a subsurface ocean, perhaps of substantial size.

That outer-planetary moons with radii larger than about 200 km (e.g.; Enceladus at 250 km) are spherical argues for separation of light and heavy materials, especially in the larger bodies. Otherwise, the moon exhibits an irregular shape (e.g.; Hyperion at 133 km). Primordial radioactivity and collision events may have aided separation. If present-day radiogenicity is that of lunar samples, natural heating is available to maintain global aqueous environments on all of the TROI moons. The ammonia-water eutectics suggested for Titan [2] provide additional margin.

The maintenance of oceans in smaller bodies depends on a balance of internal heat generation and thermal isolation by ice or other insulating material. The more important parameter may be the insulating ice, without which an outer-planetary ocean is not possible. The reduced thermal conductivity for impure ice [3] provides even more likelihood for oceans. Calculations for tidal heating within Europa due to orbital resonances [4] suggest that tidal heating amounts to over 40 times its internal radiogenic heating. A value equal only to natural radiogenic heating would be sufficient to maintain aqueous systems within TROI moons. Subsurface aqueous oceans are likely on Titania, Rhea, Oberon and Iapetus, but will be buried more than 300 km under insulating icy layers. Their existence, and that of an environment favorable for life, may be detectable from surface features or from remote surveys of their internal electromagnetic properties.

[1] England C, DPS MEETING #34 Abstract #41.08, 9/2002 [2] Lorenz RD, Lunine JI, McKay CP, ENANTIOMER 6 (2-3): 83-96 2001 [3] Lorenz RD and Shandera SE, GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS 28 (2) 215-218 2001 [4] Ross MN, Schubert G, LUNAR AND PLANETARY SCIENCE XVII, PP. 724-725, 1986

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: cengland@jpl.nasa.gov

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #4
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.