Pits and uplifts on Europa

Richard Greenberg, Martha A. Leake, Gregory V. Hoppa, B. R. Tufts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


A survey of depression and uplift features on Europa, based on Galileo regional mapping images, shows that these features come in a wide range of sizes, with numbers increasing greatly with decreasing size, down to the limits of resolution. Size distributions are similar in the northern leading and southern trailing hemispheres, where they are distinctly different from the southern leading and northern trailing hemispheres, suggesting an oblique, antipodal symmetry pattern, similar to that of chaotic and tectonic terrain. This pattern is suggestive of polar wander. Uplifts are usually polygonal or irregular in shape and rarely are cracked. Patches of chaotic terrain, which we had surveyed earlier, are not included in the current study because their topography is generally unclear, and because there is no a priori known genetic linkage with the pits and uplifts. These results contradict generalizations based on the earlier "pits, spots, and domes" (PSD) taxonomy. Most of the type examples for PSDs were simply patches of chaotic terrain selected from a limited portion of their full size range. The use of the term lenticula to collectively describe PSDs is inconsistent with the IAU definition of lenticula: a small dark spot seen at low resolution. Pits and uplifts do not correlate with lenticulae, although chaos often does. Properties of PSDs that have been widely cited as primary evidence for convective upwelling in thick ice (e.g., that uplifts are generally dome-shaped and often cracked; that pits and domes are regularly spaced; that there is a typical diameter of ∼10 km) were premature and not supported by subsequent data. Most pits and uplifts are less than 10 km across so, if they formed by diapirism or convective upwelling, the sources must have been very shallow, less than 5 km deep. How they actually formed remains unknown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-126
Number of pages25
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


  • Europa
  • Geological processes
  • Ices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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