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A metamorphic origin for Europa's ocean
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  • Mohit Melwani Daswani,
  • Steven Douglas Vance,
  • Matthew Jason Mayne,
  • Christopher Glein
Mohit Melwani Daswani
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Corresponding Author:mohit.melwani.daswani@jpl.caltech.edu

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Steven Douglas Vance
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
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Matthew Jason Mayne
Stellenbosch University
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Christopher Glein
Southwest Research Institute
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Europa likely contains an iron-rich metal core. For it to have formed, temperatures within Europa reached ≳1250 K. At that temperature, accreted chondritic minerals - e.g., carbonates and phyllosilicates - would partially devolatilize. Here, we compute the amounts and compositions of exsolved volatiles. We find that volatiles released from the interior would have carried solutes, redox-sensitive species, and could have generated a carbonic ocean in excess of Europa’s present-day hydrosphere, and potentially an early CO2 atmosphere. No late delivery of cometary water was necessary. Contrasting with prior work, CO2 could be the most abundant solute in the ocean, followed by Ca2+, SO42-, and HCO3-. However, gypsum precipitation going from the seafloor to the ice shell decreases the dissolved S/Cl ratio, such that Cl>S at the shallowest depths, consistent with recently inferred endogenous chlorides at Europa’s surface. Gypsum would form a 3 - 10 km thick sedimentary layer at the seafloor.
28 Sep 2021Published in Geophysical Research Letters volume 48 issue 18. 10.1029/2021GL094143