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Journal Article

Towards a Global Unified Model of Europa’s Tenuous Atmosphere


Hartogh,  Paul
Department Planets and Comets, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Max Planck Society;

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Plainaki, C., Cassidy, T. A., Shematovich, V. I., Milillo, A., Wurz, P., Vorburger, A., et al. (2018). Towards a Global Unified Model of Europa’s Tenuous Atmosphere. Space Science Reviews, 214: 40. doi:10.1007/s11214-018-0469-6.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0000-3E23-4
Despite the numerous modeling efforts of the past, our knowledge on the radiation-induced physical and chemical processes in Europa’s tenuous atmosphere and on the exchange of material between the moon’s surface and Jupiter’s magnetosphere remains limited. In lack of an adequate number of in situ observations, the existence of a wide variety of models based on different scenarios and considerations has resulted in a fragmentary understanding of the interactions of the magnetospheric ion population with both the moon’s icy surface and neutral gas envelope. Models show large discrepancy in the source and loss rates of the different constituents as well as in the determination of the spatial distribution of the atmosphere and its variation with time. The existence of several models based on very different approaches highlights the need of a detailed comparison among them with the final goal of developing a unified model of Europa’s tenuous atmosphere. The availability to the science community of such a model could be of particular interest in view of the planning of the future mission observations (e.g., ESA’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission, and NASA’s Europa Clipper mission). We review the existing models of Europa’s tenuous atmosphere and discuss each of their derived characteristics of the neutral environment. We also discuss discrepancies among different models and the assumptions of the plasma environment in the vicinity of Europa. A summary of the existing observations of both the neutral and the plasma environments at Europa is also presented. The characteristics of a global unified model of the tenuous atmosphere are, then, discussed. Finally, we identify needed future experimental work in laboratories and propose some suitable observation strategies for upcoming missions.