Astronomy Talk With Keck Observatory (Virtual): The Surface of Europa: A Window to the Ocean Below

Jupiter’s moon Europa is a prime target for exploring habitability in the Solar System. Beneath a comparatively thin ice shell, Europa harbors a global, salty, liquid-water ocean that is likely in contact with a rocky seafloor. Its geologically young, fractured surface suggests a history of exchange between the ocean and surface environments, such that the surface composition may reflect that of the internal ocean to some degree. However, the interpretation of surface constituents as oceanic signatures is complicated by the fact that Europa’s surface is continuously altered by particle radiation and sulfur from the volcanoes of Jupiter’s moon Io, which creates a complex tapestry of internally and externally derived materials. Using Keck, we have been working to unravel such complexities and have begun to change our understanding of Europa’s surface chemistry, internal composition, and the relationship between the two, providing a renewed glimpse into the ocean below.

Guest Speaker

Samantha Trumbo

Ph.D. Candidate in Planetary Science

California Institute of Technology



The staff and management of the W. M. Keck Observatory wish to offer our deepest gratitude to our Astronomy Talk Series sponsors, Rob and Terry Ryan.