Production of noble gases near the surface of Europa and the prospects for in situ chronology

T. D. Swindle, J. Masarik, D. Kollár, K. J. Kim, R. C. Reedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The age of the surface of Europa is probably tens of Myr or less, but is poorly constrained. Two different geochronology schemes could potentially be applied to near-surface samples to provide far more precise ages. First, the surface salts apparently contain enough potassium to make potassium-argon dating feasible. Second, the bombardment of the surface with both galactic cosmic rays and protons trapped within the jovian magnetosphere will cause nuclear reactions that can lead to measurable buildups of cosmogenic noble gases, which can be used to determine both cosmic-ray exposure ages and erosion, deposition, or mixing rates for surface modification. The major differences between Europa's salt-rich ice and the rocks (meteorites, lunar samples and terrestrial rocks) in which cosmogenic noble gases are normally measured are that the abundance of target elements for nuclear reactions creating neon and argon are lower (because of the high water content), but neutron-capture reactions, particularly 35Cl (n,γ)36Cl(β-)36Ar, are enhanced because of the thermalizing effects of the water. As well as presenting calculations of noble gas production near the surface of Europa, we also show that the measurements required to determine ages are within reach of technology in the near future, if an instrument can be landed on the surface of Europa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005


  • Cosmic rays
  • Europa
  • Jupiter, magnetosphere
  • Surfaces, satellites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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