Analysis of very-high-resolution Galileo images of Europa: Implications for small-scale structure and surface evolution
Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:20 AM
The Galileo Solid State Imager (SSI) recorded nine very high-resolution frames (8 at 12 m/pixel and 1 at 6 m/pixel) during the E12 flyby of Europa in Dec. 1997. To understand the implications for the small-scale structure and evolution of Europa, we mosaicked these frames (observations 12ESMOTTLE01 and 02, incidence ≈18°, emission ≈77°) into their regional context (part of observation 11ESREGMAP01, 220 m/pixel, incidence ≈74°, emission ≈23°), despite their very different viewing and lighting conditions. We created a map of geological units based on morphology, structure, and albedo along with stereoscopic images where the frames overlapped. The highly diverse units range from: high albedo sub-parallel ridge and grooved terrain; to variegated-albedo hummocky terrain; to low albedo and relatively smooth terrain. We classified and analyzed the diverse units solely based on the high-resolution image mosaic, prior to comparison to the context image, to obtain an in-depth look at possible surface evolution and underlying formational processes. We infer that some of these units represent different stages and forms of resurfacing, including cryovolcanic and tectonic resurfacing. However, significant morphological variation among units in the region indicates that there are different degrees of resurfacing at work. We have created candidate morphological sequences that provide insight into the conversion of ridged plains to chaotic terrain—generally, a process of subduing formerly sharp features through tectonic modification and/or cryovolcanism. When the map of the high-resolution area is compared to the regional context, features that appear to be one unit at regional resolution are comprised of several distinct units at high resolution, and features that appear to be smooth in the context image are found to show distinct textures. Moreover, in the context image, transitions from ridged units to disrupted units appear to be gradual; however the high-resolution image reveals them to be abrupt, suggesting tectonic control of these boundaries. These discrepancies could have important implications for a future landed exploration.