Europan Type

Against all seemingly likelihood, Europan worlds are planets that possess liquid water oceans.  Never mind that these worlds are formed from a large proportion of ice, and that they are found in the cold regions of a solar system.  And even more paradoxically, these oceans are found beneath the surface of the planet.

As with their smaller cousins, the Enceladean Type world, these planets form their oceans through tidal heating.  however, the proportion of tidal heating can cause these worlds to form with very different attributes.  Some worlds may well actually lack a true ocean, but instead they will possess a great subsurface region of "warm" ice;  that is, ice that remains quite pliable, and which actually flows.  However, life is unlikely in these regions, for the degree of tidal heating is not likely to create significant thermal regions at the border between the bottom of the ice layer, and the top of the rocky mantel.

Most other Europan worlds, though, possess oceans of varying depths, from only a few to hundreds of kilometers deep.  Likewise, their separation from the vacuum of space can range from less than a kilometers to hundreds of kilometers.  The thicker the ice crust, though, the less prominent will be the surface indications of this ocean, such as ice flows and crustal movement.  The wettest of Europan worlds, though, will have surfaces that are quite smooth, crisscrossed by great fractures and chasms.  In some cases, if the crust is thin enough, the ocean may occasionally become exposed to space, although a thin and sealing crust of ice is quick to form.  life is often found on these worlds, their energy provided by thermal regions in the dark depths, on the rocky oceanic floor.

The moon Europa, the archetypical Europan world.

In the light of a red dwarf system, a frozen Europan world gleams dully in the nearby sun's glare.

ArcBuilder Europans


Orion's Arm

TV and Movies

Real Examples

References and Sources


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ArcBuilder Universe concept John M. and Margo L. Dollan 2002-2004
This Page first uploaded June 24, 2004
Most recent update for this page June 25, 2004