Thursday, June 09, 2016

Simulating Europa's Water Plumes

DSMC simulation of Europa water vapor plumes


Berg et al


A computational investigation of the physics of water vapor plumes on Europa was performed with a focus on characteristics relevant to observation and spacecraft mission operations. The direct simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method was used to model the plume expansion assuming a supersonic vent source. The structure of the plume was determined, including the number density, temperature, and velocity fields. The possibility of ice grain growth above the vent was considered and deemed probable for large (diameter > ∼20 m) vents at certain Mach numbers. Additionally, preexisting grains of three diameters (0.1, 1, 50 µm) were included and their trajectories examined. A preliminary study of photodissociation of H2O into OH and H was performed to demonstrate the behavior of daughter species. A set of vent parameters was evaluated including Mach number (Mach 2, 3, 5), reduced temperature as a proxy for flow energy loss to the region surrounding the vent, and mass flow rate. Plume behavior was relatively insensitive to these factors, with the notable exception of mass flow rate. With an assumed mass flow rate of ∼1000 kg/s, a canopy shock occurred and a maximum integrated line of sight column density of ∼1020 H2O molecules/m2 was calculated, comparing favorably with observation (Roth et al., 2014a).

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