The influence of obliquity on europan cycloid formation

T. A. Hurford, A. R. Sarid, R. Greenberg, B. G. Bills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Tectonic patterns on Europa are influenced by tidal stress. An important well-recognized component is associated with the orbital eccentricity, which produces a diurnally varying stress as Jupiter's apparent position in Europa's sky oscillates in longitude. Cycloidal lineaments seem to have formed as cracks propagated in this diurnally varying stress field. Maps of theoretical cycloid patterns capture many of the characteristics of the observed distribution on Europa. However, a few details of the observed cycloid distribution have not been reproduced by previous models. Recently, it has been shown that Europa has a finite forced obliquity, so Jupiter's apparent position in Europa's sky will also oscillate in latitude. We explore this new type of diurnal effect on cycloid formation. We find that stress from obliquity may be the key to explaining several characteristics of observed cycloids such as the shape of equator-crossing cycloids and the shift in the crack patterns in the Argadnel Regio region. All of these improvements of the fit between observation and theory seem to require Jupiter crossing Europa's equatorial plane 45° to 180° after perijove passage, suggestive of complex orbital dynamics that locks the direction of Europa's pericenter with the direction of the ascending node at the time these cycloids were formed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-215
Number of pages19
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Europa
  • Rotational dynamics
  • Tectonics
  • Tides
  • solid body

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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