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Prerequisites for explosive cryovolcanism on dwarf planet-class Kuiper belt objects

Neveu, M. and Desch, S. J. and Shock, E. L. and Glein, C. R. (2015) Prerequisites for explosive cryovolcanism on dwarf planet-class Kuiper belt objects. Icarus, 246 . pp. 48-64. ISSN 0019-1035. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2014.03.043.

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Explosive extrusion of cold material from the interior of icy bodies, or cryovolcanism, has been observed on Enceladus and, perhaps, Europa, Triton, and Ceres. It may explain the observed evidence for a young surface on Charon (Pluto’s surface is masked by frosts). Here, we evaluate prerequisites for cryovolcanism on dwarf planet-class Kuiper belt objects (KBOs). We first review the likely spatial and temporal extent of subsurface liquid, proposed mechanisms to overcome the negative buoyancy of liquid water in ice, and the volatile inventory of KBOs. We then present a new geochemical equilibrium model for volatile exsolution and its ability to drive upward crack propagation. This novel approach bridges geophysics and geochemistry, and extends geochemical modeling to the seldom-explored realm of liquid water at subzero temperatures. We show that carbon monoxide (CO) is a key volatile for gas-driven fluid ascent; whereas CO_2 and sulfur gases only play a minor role. N_2, CH_4, and H_2 exsolution may also drive explosive cryovolcanism if hydrothermal activity produces these species in large amounts (a few percent with respect to water). Another important control on crack propagation is the internal structure: a hydrated core makes explosive cryovolcanism easier, but an undifferentiated crust does not. We briefly discuss other controls on ascent such as fluid freezing on crack walls, and outline theoretical advances necessary to better understand cryovolcanic processes. Finally, we make testable predictions for the 2015 New Horizons flyby of the Pluto-Charon system.

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Additional Information:© 2014 Elsevier. Special Issue: The Pluto System. Received 30 December 2013, Revised 21 March 2014, Accepted 25 March 2014, Available online 5 April 2014. We thank J.M. Dick for modifying the CHNOSZ R geochemistry package to work at subzero temperatures, and D.C. Napolitano and A.D. Edwards for helping with preliminary CHNOSZ calculations. Comments from two reviewers helped significantly improve the “Predictions for Pluto and Charon” section of this manuscript. M. Neveu is grateful to the Keck Institute for Space Studies for hosting him during part of this study. This work was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute node at Arizona State University.
Group:Keck Institute for Space Studies
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS)UNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Charon; Interiors; Pluto; Satellites, formation; Volcanism
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160222-153957769
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Official Citation:M. Neveu, S.J. Desch, E.L. Shock, C.R. Glein, Prerequisites for explosive cryovolcanism on dwarf planet-class Kuiper belt objects, Icarus, Volume 246, 15 January 2015, Pages 48-64, ISSN 0019-1035, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:64658
Deposited By: Colette Connor
Deposited On:23 Feb 2016 00:07
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 23:34

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