Spatially Resolved Spectroscopy of Europa: The Distinct Spectrum of Large-scale Chaos
Fischer et al
We present a comprehensive analysis of spatially resolved moderate spectral resolution near infrared spectra obtained with the adaptive optics system at the Keck Observatory. We identify three compositionally distinct end member regions: the trailing hemisphere bullseye, the leading hemisphere upper latitudes, and a third component associated with leading hemisphere chaos units. We interpret the composition of the three end member regions to be dominated by irradiation products, water ice, and evaporite deposits or salt brines, respectively. The third component is associated with geological features and distinct from the geography of irradiation, suggesting an endogenous identity. Identifying the endogenous composition is of particular interest for revealing the subsurface composition. However, its spectrum is not consistent with linear mixtures of the salt minerals previously considered relevant to Europa. The spectrum of this component is distinguished by distorted hydration features rather than distinct spectral features, indicating hydrated minerals but making unique identification difficult. In particular, it lacks features common to hydrated sulfate minerals, challenging the traditional view of an endogenous salty component dominated by Mg-sulfates. Chloride evaporite deposits are one possible alternative.