Title

Strength of the lithosphere of the Galilean satellites

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-1-2006

Abstract

Several approaches have been used to estimate the ice shell thickness on Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa. Here we develop a method for placing a strict lower bound on the thickness of the strong part of the shell (lithosphere) using measurements of topography. The minimal assumptions are that the strength of faults in the brittle lithosphere is controlled by lithostatic pressure according to Byerlee's law and the shell has relatively uniform density and thickness. Under these conditions, the topography of the ice provides a direct measure of the bending moment in the lithosphere. This topographic bending moment must be less than the saturation bending moment of the yield strength envelope derived from Byerlee's law. The model predicts that the topographic amplitude spectrum decreases as the square of the topographic wavelength. This explains why Europa is rugged at shorter wavelengths (∼10 km) but extremely smooth, and perhaps conforming to an equipotential surface, at longer wavelengths (>100 km). Previously compiled data on impact crater depth and diameter [Schenk, P.M., 2002. Nature 417, 419-421] on Europa show good agreement with the spectral decrease predicted by the model and require a lithosphere thicker than 2.5 km. A more realistic model, including a ductile lower lithosphere, requires a thickness greater than 3.5 km. Future measurements of topography in the 10-100 km wavelength band will provide tight constraints on lithospheric strength. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Icarus

First Page

159

Last Page

167

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