Experimental constraints on the chemical evolution of icy satellites

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The inferred internal structure of large icy satellites hinges on the degree to which their rock component has been hydrated: this is due to the low density of hydrated silicates relative to anhydrous silicates. Accordingly, interior models of icy satellites have varied greatly in their estimates of ice thickness due to uncertainties in the density of the underlying rock. Furthermore, as both H{sub 2}O (potentially liquid) and organic materials are likely to be present, icy moons have been postulated to be possible hosts for extraterrestrial life; therefore, the stability of organic material under relevant hydrothermal conditions is an important issue. ... continued below

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Scott, H P; Williams, Q & Ryerson, F J January 18, 2000.

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The inferred internal structure of large icy satellites hinges on the degree to which their rock component has been hydrated: this is due to the low density of hydrated silicates relative to anhydrous silicates. Accordingly, interior models of icy satellites have varied greatly in their estimates of ice thickness due to uncertainties in the density of the underlying rock. Furthermore, as both H{sub 2}O (potentially liquid) and organic materials are likely to be present, icy moons have been postulated to be possible hosts for extraterrestrial life; therefore, the stability of organic material under relevant hydrothermal conditions is an important issue. For example, Ganymede, Titan, and Triton are similar in that high pressure hydrothermal processing of silicates has likely been important in their chemical evolution. With mean densities between 1.8 and 2.1 g/cm{sup 3}, compositional models of these bodies incorporate approximately 50--80% silicate minerals by weight, with ices constituting the remaining mass. Moment of inertia constraints on the internal structure of Ganymede demonstrate that differentiation between rock and ice has occurred: such differentiation has also likely occurred in Titan and Triton. During accretion and differentiation (which could be ongoing), the silicate fraction of their interiors would have interacted with aqueous fluids at moderate to high temperatures and pressures. Indeed, a strong magnetic field appears to be generated by Ganymede implying that interior temperatures are high enough (in excess of 1,000 K) to maintain a liquid iron alloy in this satellite. High temperature/pressure hydrothermal processing at rock-water interfaces would profoundly influence the bulk mineralogy and internal structure of these bodies: the degree of hydration of the rocky fraction of these bodies has been a source of ongoing uncertainty. Surprisingly few phase equilibria data exist for compositions of relevance to hydrothermal interactions on icy satellites, and thermodynamic calculations have provided the best insights into the interiors of these bodies thus far. Interestingly, the relevant conditions for hydrothermal interactions on these satellites actually lie at higher pressures than those of hydrothermal flow through terrestrial oceanic crust. This is simply because while gravitational acceleration is considerably lower on icy satellites than on Earth, the extreme thickness of ice on these bodies (up to 1,000 km) results in correspondingly higher H{sub 2}O pressures.

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78 Kilobytes pages

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  • 31st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Houston, TX (US), 03/13/2000--03/17/2000

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  • Report No.: UCRL-JC-137214
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 756796
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc708122

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  • January 18, 2000

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  • Sept. 12, 2015, 6:31 a.m.

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  • May 6, 2016, 1:19 p.m.

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Scott, H P; Williams, Q & Ryerson, F J. Experimental constraints on the chemical evolution of icy satellites, article, January 18, 2000; California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc708122/: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.