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Discovery of an extended sodium atmosphere around Europa

Brown, Michael E. and Hill, Richard E. (1996) Discovery of an extended sodium atmosphere around Europa. Nature, 380 (6571). pp. 229-231. ISSN 0028-0836. doi:10.1038/380229a0.

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Europa, one of the satellites of Jupiter, has long been thought to be a dormant icy body, unlike its volcanically active neighbour, Io. Europa lies deep within Jupiter's magnetosphere, however, and is continuously bombarded by energetic ions, which modify the surface ices and are probably responsible for creating Europa's tightly bound oxygen atmosphere. Here we report the discovery of an atmosphere of atomic sodium that extends to at least 25 times Europa's radius. We suggest that this sodium is originally released by Io's volcanoes, after which it is ionized in the magnetosphere and implanted into Europa's surface ice; subsequent sputtering of the ice by magnetospheric ions releases the sodium to form the extended atmosphere. Although sodium is a minor constituent of Europa's atmosphere, it traces the distribution of the major atmospheric components which are not themselves directly observable. The sodium and oxygen could represent the extremes of the distribution of the atmospheric components, with only the heaviest molecules (such as the oxygen) being tightly bound; alternatively the sodium might be in the form of an extended corona, analogous to Io's atmosphere.

Item Type:Article
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Brown, Michael E.0000-0002-8255-0545
Additional Information:© 1996 Nature Publishing Group. Received 28 July 1995; accepted 29 January 1996. We thank E. J. Moyer, A. J. Dessler and D. M. Hunten for enlightening conversations. This work was supported by a Hubble Fellowship grant from STScI.
Group:UNSPECIFIED, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences
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Space Telescope Science InstituteUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:6571
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20121003-111408032
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Official Citation:Discovery of an extended sodium atmosphere around Europa 229 Michael E. Brown & Richard E. Hill doi:10.1038/380229a0
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:34665
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:03 Oct 2012 20:20
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:09

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