PLS - Lynnae Quick (NASA/GSFC)

Lynnae Quick (NASA/GSFC)
Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - 12:30pm to 1:00pm

Cryovolcanism and Habitable Niches on Ocean Worlds Near and Far

As it is most commonly known, volcanism involves the eruption of hot, molten rock and ash on Earth and other terrestrial planets. However, several bodies in our outer solar system exhibit icy volcanism or, cryovolcanism, during which briny aqueous solutions and crystalline ice erupt instead. The Voyager 2 and Cassini spacecraft imaged geyser-like eruptions in the south polar regions of Neptune’s moon Triton and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, respectively. Imagery from the Galileo spacecraft and recent telescopic detections of putative geyser-like plumes on Jupiter’s moon Europa suggest that cryovolcanic processes may be currently occurring on the smallest Galilean satellite. Ground-based studies and imagery from NASA’s New Horizons and Dawn spacecraft suggest that cryovolcanism may have also occurred on large Kuiper Belt Objects such as Pluto and Charon, and possibly on dwarf planet Ceres. Similar to the icy moons in our outer solar system, cryovolcanic eruptions on cold, water-rich exoplanets (e.g., Trappist-1h) could indicate the presence of internal liquid reservoirs, possibly subsurface oceans. In this talk I will review the current state of knowledge of cryovolcanism in our solar system including cryomagma migration and cryovolcanic eruptions on Jupiter’s moon Europa. I will also discuss the thermal and orbital conditions that could facilitate cryovolcanism on extrasolar planets, and prospects for utilizing next-generation space telescopes to detect cryovolcanic eruptions on distant, water-rich worlds. Lastly, I will review the goals of NASA’s Europa Clipper Mission, which will make new discoveries at our solar system’s own active ocean world.

About the Series

The MIT Planetary Lunch Seminar [PLS], formerly PICS, is a weekly seminar series organized within the EAPS department. Colloquia topics span the range of research interests of the department's planetary sciences research program. The seminars usually take place on Tuesdays from 12-1:30 pm in 54-517 unless otherwise noted (term-time only). Speakers include members of the MIT community and visitors. Talks are intended to appeal to graduate students, postdocs, research scientists, and faculty with a background in planetary science. A light lunch is provided.