April 20, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Activity in Jupiter Moons Defies Long Ages

New findings continue a running theme: the real
solar system doesn’t look like the expected solar system.


CEH has had a longstanding record of reporting surprises in the solar system. Planetary scientists cling to their precious billions of years, because Darwin needs the time. That age assumption is never questioned. The observational facts, though, do not show old objects. It’s not that secular scientists are unable to concoct narratives to explain away the apparent youth of these objects; it’s the fact that the observations require a narrative to fit a belief. Here are the latest revelations about two of Jupiter’s moons.

Jupiter’s Moon Has Splendid Dunes (Rutgers University, 19 April 2022).

Io global view from Galileo mission (NASA). The spots are all volcanoes.

The Jupiter system has lots of age problems. One of the most glaring is its innermost large moon, Io (eye-oh), the most volcanic body in the solar system. Despite being just slightly bigger than our moon, Io has more active volcanoes at a time than the Earth does. Now, scientists at Rutgers have figured out how dunes can form on this little body – a surprise for a small body with less gravity than Earth or Titan, both known to have extensive dunes.

Scientists have long wondered how Jupiter’s innermost moon, Io, has meandering ridges as grand as any that can be seen in movies like “Dune.” Now, a Rutgers research study has provided a new explanation of how dunes can form even on a surface as icy and roiling as Io’s….

“Our studies point to the possibility of Io as a new ‘dune world,’” said first author George McDonald, a postdoctoral researcher in Rutgers’ Earth and Planetary Sciences Department. “We have proposed, and quantitatively tested, a mechanism by which sand grains can move, and in turn dunes could be forming there.”

The theory and tests were published in the open-access journal Nature Communications on 19 April 2022 by McDonald et al., “Aeolian sediment transport on Io from lava–frost interactions.” The scientists theorized that “shallow subsurface interactions between lava and Io’s widespread sulfur dioxide (SO2) frost can produce localized sublimation vapor flows with sufficient gas densities to enable particle saltation.” They found surface features on Io consistent with the theory.

A problem concerns time. Creation scientists have pointed out that in 4.5 billion years, Io could have recycled its entire mass through its volcanoes about 40 times over. Have dunes been forming and disappearing over and over throughout Io’s existence? The paper does not address this question. It only says, “Future studies would benefit from examining the time evolution of these interactions.”

Comparison of the moons of the solar system.

Stanford researchers’ explanation for formation of abundant features on Europa bodes well for search for extraterrestrial life (Stanford University, 19 April 2022).

Ignore the line about extraterrestrial life; it’s just a distraction and a hope. What matters is the activity on Europa, the next Galilean satellite out from Jupiter beyond Io. Watch the embedded video clip in the press release, where PhD student Riley Culberg says he had a moment of recognition looking at Europa’s surface with its double ridges. He had seen similar structures in the Greenland ice sheet. Such features are rare on Earth, but they are the most abundant structures on Europa, crisscrossing the entire surface. They look like long cracks with shoulders on both sides, many miles long.

Europa double ridges at very high resolution from the Galileo mission (NASA). Newer ridges overlie earlier ones, suggesting frequent pressurized outbursts.

With Dustin Schroeder, Associate Professor of Geophysics at Stanford, Culberg theorizes that pockets of water in the global ocean under the 20-km-thick ice shell occasionally burst upward, fracturing the ice and depositing material on both sides of the crack. They published this theory in Nature Communications on 19 April 2022.

Once again, though, a question of time comes up. Has this been going on repeatedly for 4.5 billion years? The authors do not mention a comparable situation on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, where geysers also deposit snowy material on both sides of the “Tiger Stripe” cracks. Much of that material is lost to space, creating the giant E-ring around Saturn. That’s another case where activity cannot plausibly be sustained for billions of years.

If any material is lost to space when Europa’s cracks form by “successive refreezing, pressurization, and fracture” of shallow water sills within the ice sheet, it would set an upper limit on Europa’s age. Creation geophysicists, without the necessity to defend Darwin’s timeline, could perform such a calculation.

Covering this new theory, Leah Crane at New Scientist (19 April 2022) boasts that “We now know how the mysterious ridges covering Europa’s surface formed.”

Watch out for that phrase “we now know” – it is often a setup for embarrassment later. Culberg and Schroeder came up with a theory but it falls short of confident knowledge. Like them, Crane ignores the age conundrum. Instead (also like the authors), she leaps into astrobiology. Quoting Culberg, she ends, “If there is life in Europa’s ocean, it might also make its way into these pockets of fluid, making it far easier to find, he says.”




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