The orbital-thermal evolution and global expansion of Ganymede

Michael T. Bland, Adam P. Showman, Gabriel Tobie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


The tectonically and cryovolcanically resurfaced terrains of Ganymede attest to the satellite's turbulent geologic history. Yet, the ultimate cause of its geologic violence remains unknown. One plausible scenario suggests that the Galilean satellites passed through one or more Laplace-like resonances before evolving into the current Laplace resonance. Passage through such a resonance can excite Ganymede's eccentricity, leading to tidal dissipation within the ice shell. To evaluate the effects of resonance passage on Ganymede's thermal history we model the coupled orbital-thermal evolution of Ganymede both with and without passage through a Laplace-like resonance. In the absence of tidal dissipation, radiogenic heating alone is capable of creating large internal oceans within Ganymede if the ice grain size is 1 mm or greater. For larger grain sizes, oceans will exist into the present epoch. The inclusion of tidal dissipation significantly alters Ganymede's thermal history, and for some parameters (e.g. ice grain size, tidal Q of Jupiter) a thin ice shell (5 to 20 km) can be maintained throughout the period of resonance passage. The pulse of tidal heating that accompanies Laplace-like resonance capture can cause up to 2.5% volumetric expansion of the satellite and contemporaneous formation of near surface partial melt. The presence of a thin ice shell and high satellite orbital eccentricity would generate moderate diurnal tidal stresses in Ganymede's ice shell. Larger stresses result if the ice shell rotates non-synchronously. The combined effects of satellite expansion, its associated tensile stress, rapid formation of near surface partial melt, and tidal stress due to an eccentric orbit may be responsible for creating Ganymede's unique surface features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-221
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Ganymede
  • Interiors
  • Resonances
  • Thermal histories
  • orbital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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