Europa, a Satellite with Distinctive Characteristics

This article features some of the peculiarities of the Jovian satellite Europa and compares it to the neighboring satellite Io.

     In case that you have not yet read the mythological story concerning Europa, she was abducted by Zeus. He disguised himself as a bull and carried Europa to Crete when she climbed on his back.

Icy Surface with Linea

     Io has some lofty peaks. According to “The New Solar System,” Boosaule Mons is twice as high as Mount Everest. In contrast, on Europa, mountains are conspicuous by their absence. Europa has a relatively smooth surface crisscrossed by lineae. The surface is exceptionally bright and has an icy appearance. Spectrographic evidence indicates the presence of frozen water, according to NASA.

     Linea is a Latin word meaning “line” However, the lineae are lines only when viewed from great distances. They are wider than they look. Minos Linea is 10 to 20 kilometers wide, according to NASA.

     The Greek story concerning Europa supplies the names of many of the lineae. Agenor Linea honors her father. Her mother, who has two different names in Greek mythology, gives her name to Telephassa Linea and Argiope Linea. Three of Europa’s brothers are represented by Cadmus Linea, Phoenix Linea, and Thasus Linea. Minos Linea and Rhadamanthys Linea are named after children of Europa. Adonis Linea is named after the son of Phoenix. Harmonia Linea is named after the wife of Cadmus, and Agave Linea is named after their daughter.

     Other lineae bear the names of prehistoric sites in which large stones are aligned with one another to form rows. For example, Drizzlecomb Linea is named after the Drizzlecombe Stone Row in Devon, England; and Drumskinny Linea is named after a similar phenomenon in Northern Ireland.

Other Peculiarities

     Both Io and Europa have thin atmospheres. However, whereas the atmosphere of Io consists of volcanic gases such as sulfur dioxide, Europa has an oxygen atmosphere.

     Scientists speculate that there may be an unfrozen ocean under the surface ice of Europa. A rocky mantle is believed to underlie the ocean, with an iron core at the center of the satellite. Further investigation is necessary before these speculations can be verified.

     Evolutionary scientists are always hoping to find life on celestial bodies because it is a prediction of the evolutionary theory that such life ought to exist. They have especially high hopes concerning Europa. Personally I do not expect to find native life beyond our terrestrial sphere.


     As far as is currently known, only five other satellites are closer to Jupiter than Europa. In order of increasing distances from the mother planet, they are Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, Thebe, and Io. Beyond Europa are Ganymede, Callisto, and many other smaller satellites.

     According to NASA, Europa is 664,792 km from the center of Jupiter at its periapsis (closest approach) and 677,408 km at its apoapsis (greatest distance). The eccentricity of its orbit is therefore small. The angle of inclination between the orbit of Europa and the plane of Jupiter’s equator is also small – less than half a degree. Europa does not waste any time as it speeds around the mother planet. It completes an orbit before the earth has completed four rotations on its axis.

     In size, Europa is the fourth largest of the Jovian satellites. Its mean radius is 1,560.8 km, according to NASA.


Wikipedia: Europa

NASA: Europa

Wikipedia: Europa (Mythology)

Phoenicia: Europa

Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature: Europa

Nine Planets: Europa

Science on a Sphere: Europa – a Moon of Jupiter

NASA – Solar System Exploration: Galileo Legacy Site

Southwest Research Institute: Introduction

Manannan: Part IBook IV – His Three Calls to Cormac

Wikipedia: Cilix

NASA: Ice on Europa

“The New Solar System” by Patricia Daniels

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