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Blog: Fall 2013 AGU Conference Europa Overview
A new view of the impact crater Cilix, on Europa, created using 3D stereo images taken by the Galileo spacecraft, combined with advanced image processing techniques. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cynthia Phillips

Fall 2013 AGU Conference Europa Overview

Dr. Cynthia Phillips

The Fall 2013 meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) is taking place this week in San Francisco, California, and Europa science is well-represented, including some exciting new results.

If you are attending the meeting, make sure to check out the "Destination: "Europa" poster session and oral session on Friday December 13th. This session is hosted by Britney Schmidt (Georgia Tech), Alyssa Rhoden (NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center) and me (Cynthia Phillips of the SETI Institute), and it includes 11 talks on a wide variety of subjects, as well as 18 posters! The talks will take place in Moscone West, room 2005, from 4 to 6 p.m.; the poster session runs from 1:40 to 6:00 p.m. the same day in the main poster hall, Moscone South rooms A-C.

The sessions are open only to those who register for and attend the AGU meeting in San Francisco. For those who can be there, or for those who cannot but want a preview of what new is happening in Europa science, here are just a few highlights of the new results to be presented at the poster and oral sessions.

Talk highlights (all talks in Moscone West room 2005):

  • At 4:00 PM, Nicholas Schmerr leads off the session with a discussion of how seismometers might work on Europa, based on fieldwork and modelling of Antarctic ice shelves (P54A-01).
  • At 4:36 PM, Tori Hoehler will present a study of the energy requirements for terrestrial biology and the implications for a biosphere in Europa's ocean (P54A-04).
  • At 4:58 PM, Catherine Walker will discuss the mechanics of fractures in Europa's icy shell (P54A-06).
  • At 5:08 PM, Jim Shirley will present compositional evidence for a past comet impact on Europa (P54A-07).
  • At 5:48 PM, Victoria Siegel will present fascinating new test results from a laser-powered cryobot that might someday explore Europa's subsurface ocean (P54A-10).

These are just a few highlighted talks among many sure-to-be fascinating results.

Poster highlights (all posters in Moscone South rooms A-C):

Make sure to come see some posters before the talks start! Posters will be up all day, but most scientists will be at their posters to answer questions between 1:40 and 4 p.m. (the poster session goes until 6 p.m., but most people will be in the oral session from 4 to 6 p.m.).

  • Visit poster P53A-1832, by Cassidy Curra, to learn about how ice-penetrating radar has been tested in Antarctica to enhance the characterization of Europa's subsurface with a future mission.
  • Kurt Retherford will present poster P53A-1838 on studies of Europa's atmosphere and aurora using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, and plans to search for active plumes using the UV Spectrometer on the future ESA JUICE mission to the Jupiter system.
  • Louise Prockter will present poster P53A-1841, an overview of the proposed science and reconnaissance goals and operations for the Europa Clipper mission concept.
  • Alyssa Rhoden, in poster P53A-1842, will present new and updated models of how cyclodial ridges could form in a viscoelastic ice shell on Europa due to tidal stresses.
  • I will present poster P53A-1846, with new 3D stereo models of a variety of surface features on Europa, including ridges and impact craters, with comparisons to formation models and implications for subsurface structure and thermal history.
  • Kathleen Craft will present poster P53A-1847, in which she studies whether liquid water sills could be emplaced on Europa.
  • Finally, friends and colleagues of the late Gary Hansen (1953-2013), a noted Europa spectroscopist, will be able to visit poster P53A-1831 to see Gary's last submitted conference abstract, read a tribute to his scientific life, and leave notes of remembrance to be sent to his family.

There are many more Europa posters to visit, as well as those highlighted above.

Other talks:

While Friday, Dec. 13, will be the main Europa day at the conference, there will also be a few Europa presentations in other sessions earlier in the week. Make sure not to miss these interesting talks:

  • On Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 5:45 p.m., you can hear Kevin Hand talk about a potential radiolytic salt cycle on Europa, in presentation P34B-08 in Moscone West, room 2011.
  • On Thursday, Dec. 12, at 10:20 a.m., you can hear Lorenz Roth give an interesting talk about using the Hubble Space Telescope to make observations of Europa's aurora. Talk P42A-01 will take place in Moscone West, room 2007.
  • Later that day, at 1:40 p.m., make sure to attend Britney Schmidt's talk about lakes, layers and the potential for life in Europa's subsurface. This will be a talk P43E in room Moscone West 2007.

Dr. Cynthia Phillips is a planetary geologist based at the SETI Institute, in Mountain View, CA, who has devoted much of her career to studying the icy moons of the outer solar system. Her favorite place is Europa.
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