Hybrid Simulation of the Interaction of Europa’s Atmosphere with the Jovian Plasma: Multiprocessor Simulations
Abstract:We model the interaction of Europa’s tenuous atmosphere with the plasma of Jupiter’s torus with an improved version of our hybrid plasma code. In a hybrid plasma code, the ions are treated as kinetic Macro-particles moving under the Lorentz force and the electrons as a fluid leading to a generalized formulation of Ohm’s law. In this version, the spatial simulation domain is decomposed in 2 directions and is non-uniform in the plasma convection direction. The code is run on a multi-processor supercomputer that offers 16416 cores and 2GB Ram per core. This new version allows us to tap into the large memory of the supercomputer and simulate the full interaction volume (Reuropa=1561km) with a high spatial resolution (50km).
Compared to Io, Europa’s atmosphere is about 100 times more tenuous, the ambient magnetic field is weaker and the density of incident plasma is lower. Consequently, the electrodynamic interaction is also weaker and substantial fluxes of thermal torus ions might reach and sputter the icy surface.
Molecular O2 is the dominant atmospheric product of this surface sputtering. Observations of oxygen UV emissions (specifically the ratio of OI 1356A / 1304A emissions) are roughly consistent with an atmosphere that is composed predominantely of O2 with a small amount of atomic O.
Galileo observations along flybys close to Europa have revealed the existence of induced currents in a conducting ocean under the icy crust. They also showed that, from flyby to flyby, the plasma interaction is very variable. Asymmetries of the plasma density and temperature in the wake of Europa were also observed and still elude a clear explanation. Galileo mag data also detected ion cyclotron waves, which is an indication of heavy ion pickup close to the moon.
We prescribe an O2 atmosphere with a vertical density column consistent with UV observations and model the plasma properties along several Galileo flybys of the moon. We compare our results with the magnetometer observations, PLS plasma measurements (ion density, temperature and bulk flow velocity) and PWS electron density measurements.