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Ice Spikes Could Complicate Europa Landings

Accepted submission by takyon at 2018-10-08 20:10:40

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," for their resemblance to devout white-clad monks. [...] Pentinentes 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 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 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.

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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