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posted by martyb on Tuesday October 09 2018, @10:14AM   Printer-friendly
from the bartender,-could-I-please-have-a-lander-on-the-rocks? dept.

Fields of five-story-high ice blades could complicate landing on Jupiter moon

Probes have shown that Europa's ice-bound surface is riven with fractures and ridges, and new work published today in Nature Geosciences suggests any robotic lander could face a nasty surprise [DOI: 10.1038/s41561-018-0235-0] [DX], in the form of vast fields of ice spikes, each standing as tall as a semitruck is long.

Such spikes are created on Earth in the frigid tropical peaks of the Andes Mountains, where they are called "pentinentes,"[sic] for their resemblance to devout white-clad monks. [...] Pentinentes[sic] have already been seen on Pluto. And by calculating other competing erosional processes on Europa, such as impacts and charged particle bombardment, the new work suggests the vaporization of ice would be dominant in its equatorial belt, forming pentitentes[sic] 15 meters tall spaced only 7 meters apart. Such formations could explain, the authors add, why radar observations of the planet dip in energy at its equator, the pentinentes[sic] scattering the response. But the ultimate proof of whether Europa's belly will be off limits to landing will come when the Clipper arrives in the mid-2020s.

[Update: It's penitentes. Ed.]

First it was slush. Now it's spikes. Attempt no landing there.

Europa.

Also at Science News and The Verge.

Related:
NASA Releases Europa Lander Study 2016 Report
Amino Acids Could Exist Just Centimeters Under Europa's Surface


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  • (Score: 2) by ledow on Tuesday October 09 2018, @12:25PM

    by ledow (5567) on Tuesday October 09 2018, @12:25PM (#746396) Homepage

    You're presuming that you can carry something massive enough to destroy a five-storey-high wall of ice under the influence of low gravity.

    Pretty much, the Earth probably couldn't afford to put that kind of mass into space, let alone use it as a throwaway landing-site-clearance device.

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