Did solid tides prevent the thermodynamic death of Europa?

UK Centre for Astrobiology seminar

Did solid tides prevent the thermodynamic death of Europa?

  • Event time: 1:30pm
  • Event date: 26th February 2019
  • Speaker: Mohit Melwani Daswani (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
  • Location: Room 4325B,

Event details

Aqueous environments in chemical disequilibrium are candidate locations for the emergence and existence of life. Europa’s ocean could be one such location in the Solar System, but questions remain as to the persistence of chemical disequilibria within Europa’s ocean through geologic time. High pressures at the seafloor (150 – 200 MPa; Vance et al., 2018) may seriously restrict the hydrothermal venting and water-rock interaction (Byrne et al., 2018) required for element fluxes and redox disequilibria favorable for life (e.g. McCollom 1999).

We are testing whether this “thermodynamic death” of Europa’s seafloor and ocean could be avoided through a sustained element flux to the ocean enabled by orbital evolution. In this work, we will show a geochemical/petrological model of the rocky interior with phase changes and reactions, including volatile fluxes. By analogy to Earth’s mid-ocean ridges, metamorphic reactions and silicate melting, if they ever occurred within Europa, would have affected the trapping and releasing of volatiles and other elements useful for life as we know it via reversible and irreversible chemical reactions. This will help constrain the composition of the ocean for when NASA’s mission Europa Clipper arrives, and whether Europa’s seafloor has been continuously habitable and remains so today, or whether Europa’s interior has been “thermodynamically dead” for extended periods of time.

About UK Centre for Astrobiology seminars

The astrobiology seminar series is run by the UK Centre for Astrobiology based in the School of Physics & Astronomy. Astrobiology is a multi-disciplinary subject and the seminar series actively encourages attendance by undergraduates, postgraduates and academic staff from other departments..

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