The global geologic map of Europa will provide the first insight into the global stratigraphy and distribution of geologic units of the icy moon of Jupiter. The current mappig effort serves both the astrogeologic community, NASA’s Europa Clipper mission planning (launch planned in 2023), and also may be useful for ESA’s JUICE mission (launch planned in 2022) that will have overlapping missions.
Europa has a global ocean underneath the ice crust. The map helps identify sites where the subsurface materials interact with the surface (or space) providing windows into the potentially habitable interior of the planet.
The results show that the most recent landforms are chaos regions that are the second most widespread on the moon after the ridged plains. As the lead author, E. J. Leonard presented at the EPSC-DPS conference, microchaoses do not concentrate around larger chaos areas as expected, but instead they occur at the intersections of linear forms, breaking up ridges, bands and cycloids.
Erin Leonard (JPL) started mapping in January 2017. “The varying resolution and imaging geometry (e.g., lighting) make creating a consistent global map a challenge because terrain can have a different appearance depending on these factors”, Leonard explains.
In addition to the 1:15M global map, where only units larger than 15 km are identified, the author has started a second, regional series as her postdoctoral project. The 1:500k regional maps would show those regions that were imaged at the highest resolution (200 m/pixel). Conamara Chaos and Moytura Regio are the first two in the regional series. “We chose these locations to start with because they contain a variety of units at the global scale”, Leonard says.
The long-awaited map of Europa is under final review now and is expected to be published soon at USGS.