Crack azimuths on Europa: Time sequence in the southern leading face

Alyssa Rose Sarid, Richard Greenberg, Gregory V. Hoppa, Paul Geissler, Brandon Preblich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The formation sequence of prominent ridges and other tectonic lineaments on the southern portion of the leading hemisphere of Europa is determined from cross-cutting relationships. These selected features formed fairly recently relative to most of the surface; older lineaments no longer retain clear evidence of cross-cutting. If we assume that this sequence represents the order of formation of cracks that underlie each lineament, and that the orientation of each crack was determined by tidal stress whose azimuth varies monotonically counter-clockwise with time, the azimuth must have rotated more than 740°, which would correspond to the change in tidal stress over two periods of nonsynchronous rotation (relative to the direction of Jupiter). However, that interpretation is not necessarily compelling, because the observed orientations of cross-cutting lineaments are not densely spaced over these cycles; in fact, the sequence would fit nearly as well into an arbitrary model with rotation in the opposite sense from that predicted by theory. This tectonic record may have formed over many more rotational cycles, such that typically only a few cracks form per cycle, which would be consistent with evidence from considerations of cycloidal crack patterns. Sets of cracks that cluster near certain azimuth orientations appear to be parts of globe-encircling lineament systems and may result from other effects, perhaps polar wander that occurred rapidly relative to nonsynchronous rotation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-157
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • Europa
  • Geological processes
  • Tectonics
  • Tides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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