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The evidence of plate tectonics is assembled in Europe

On Earth, the theory of plate tectonics describes how large pieces of the planet's crust move and interact. These pieces, or plates, slide over the mantle, the malleable outer layer of Earth's core. Now, new research indicates that the icy surface of Europa, one of the four largest moons of Jupiter, can also experience tectonic plates. If so, this process could be a way to transport materials, such as nutrients for life, to the ocean of liquid water just below the ice crust of the moon.

The work, published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets on Monday, showed through computer models of Europe's ice sheet that a process called subduction, in which a tectonic plate is found and slides under another, it is possible on the moon. The results of the models coincide with previous work showing that the regions of the surface of Europe seem to be expanding, making them look like oceanic ridges on Earth and also suggesting that the plates tectonics are in operation.

"What we show is that under reasonable assumptions for conditions in Europe, subduction could be happening there as well, which is really exciting," Brown senior author Brandon Johnson said in a press release. It's so exciting, he continued, because "if there is indeed life in that ocean, subduction offers a way to provide the nutrients it would need."

When subduction occurs on Earth, it is because the crust is colder and denser than the mantle. This causes the plates to sink, sometimes in the depths of the mantle. On Earth, the crust and mantle are composed of rock, but in Europe, the moon's shell is made of ice. Although there is evidence that the European carapace has two layers, with the coldest and densest ice on top, any plate of ice that sinks beneath another will warm up, decrease its density and stop, leaving scientists wondering if the subduction It is really possible. .

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