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What does Europa sound like?

(The moon, not the continent)

· Seismology,Space,Europa

Europa is one of the greatest places in the solar system, with an abysmally deep ocean hidden in eternal night beneath kilometers of ice. We have no idea whether anything lives there to make a sound, but we can guess which sound the the ice shell makes when it's cracking under the tidal forces of mighty Jupiter.

Using interior models created by Steve Vance from JPL, Pasadena, Mark Panning and I used AxiSEM and Instaseis to simulate seismic wave propagation inside Europa. With an estimate of the tidal energy dissipated in the ice layer and a simple Gutenberg-Richter relation, we created seismicity models which tell us how many icequakes of which magnitude we expect each week. The answer is: roughly one of magnitude 3 per week and ten of magnitude 2 and so on.

Details have been presented by Mark at AGU in San Francisco:

P31A-2083: Panning, Stähler, Huang et al.: What will Europa sound like? Modeling seismic background noise due to tidal cracking events

Poster PDF:


Mark created a sound file from the waveforms and wrote an article