Isostatic equilibrium in spherical coordinates and implications for crustal thickness on the Moon, Mars, Enceladus, and elsewhere [CL]

Isostatic equilibrium is commonly understood to be the state of equilibrium–neglecting mantle dynamics and the slow relaxation of the crust–achieved when there are no lateral gradients in hydrostatic or lithostatic pressure, and thus no lateral flow, at depth within the lower viscosity mantle that underlies the outer crust of a planetary body. In a constant-gravity Cartesian framework, this definition is equivalent to the requirement that columns of equal width contain equal masses. Here we show, however, that this equivalence breaks down when the spherical geometry of the problem is taken into account. Imposing the ‘equal masses’ requirement in a spherical geometry, as is commonly done in the literature, leads to significant lateral pressure gradients along internal equipotential surfaces, and thus corresponds to a state of disequilibrium. Compared with the ‘equal pressures’ model we present here, the ‘equal masses’ model always leads to an overestimate of the compensation depth. The magnitude of the discrepancy depends on the density structure of the body and the wavelength of the relevant topography, and is most pronounced when the compensation depth is a substantial fraction of the body’s radius. Compared with the ‘equal pressures’ model, we show that analyses incorporating the ‘equal masses’ model may overestimate crustal thicknesses by as much as ~27% in the case of the lunar highlands, by ~10% in the case of the Martian highlands, and by nearly a factor of two in the case of Saturn’s small icy moon Enceladus.

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D. Hemingway and I. Matsuyama
Wed, 1 Mar 17

Comments: 22 pages of text; 3 figures; prepared for submission to GRL

An experimental study of low-velocity impacts into granular material in reduced gravity [EPA]

In order to improve our understanding of landing on small bodies and of asteroid evolution, we use our novel drop tower facility to perform low-velocity (2-40 cm s^-1), shallow impact experiments of a 10 cm diameter aluminum sphere into quartz sand in low effective gravities (~0.2-1 m s^-2). Using in situ accelerometers, we measure the acceleration profile during the impacts and determine the peak accelerations, collision durations and maximum penetration depth. We find that the penetration depth scales linearly with the collision velocity but is independent of the effective gravity for the experimental range tested, and that the collision duration is independent of both the effective gravity and the collision velocity. No rebounds are observed in any of the experiments. Our low-gravity experimental results indicate that the transition from the quasi-static regime to the inertial regime occurs for impact energies two orders of magnitude smaller than in similar impact experiments under terrestrial gravity. The lower energy regime change may be due to the increased hydrodynamic drag of the surface material in our experiments, but may also support the notion that the quasi-static regime reduces as the effective gravity becomes lower.

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N. Murdoch, I. Martinez, C. Sunday, et. al.
Tue, 21 Feb 17

Comments: Advance Access publication: January 4 2017

A supernova at 50 pc: Effects on the Earth's atmosphere and biota [EPA]

Recent 60Fe results have suggested that the estimated distances of supernovae in the last few million years should be reduced from 100 pc to 50 pc. Two events or series of events are suggested, one about 2.7 million years to 1.7 million years ago, and another may at 6.5 to 8.7 million years ago. We ask what effects such supernovae are expected to have on the terrestrial atmosphere and biota. Assuming that the Local Bubble was formed before the event being considered, and that the supernova and the Earth were both inside a weak, disordered magnetic field at that time, TeV-PeV cosmic rays at Earth will increase by a factor of a few hundred. Tropospheric ionization will increase proportionately, and the overall muon radiation load on terrestrial organisms will increase by a factor of 150. All return to pre-burst levels within 10kyr. In the case of an ordered magnetic field, effects depend strongly on the field orientation. The upper bound in this case is with a largely coherent field aligned along the line of sight to the supernova, in which case TeV-PeV cosmic ray flux increases are 10^4; in the case of a transverse field they are below current levels. We suggest a substantial increase in the extended effects of supernovae on Earth and in the lethal distance estimate; more work is needed.This paper is an explicit followup to Thomas et al. (2016). We also here provide more detail on the computational procedures used in both works.

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A. Melott, B. Thomas, M. Kachelriess, et. al.
Thu, 16 Feb 17

Comments: 5 figures. arXiv admin note: text overlap with arXiv:1605.04926

Texture and composition of Titan's equatorial region inferred from Cassini SAR inversion: Implications for aeolian transport at Saturn's largest moon [EPA]

Sand seas on Titan may reflect the present and past climatic conditions. Understanding the morphodynamics and physico-chemical properties of Titan’s dunes is therefore essential for a better comprehension of the climatic and geological history of the largest Saturn’s moon. We derived quantitatively surface properties (texture, composition) from the modelling of microwave backscattered signal and Monte-Carlo inversion of despeckled Cassini/SAR data over sand sea. We show that dunes and interdunes have significantly different physical properties. Dunes are globally more microwave absorbent than the interdunes. The inter-dunes present multi-scale roughness with a higher dielectric constant than the dunes. Considering the composition, the interdunes are in between the dunes and the radar bright inselbergs, suggesting the presence of a shallow layer of non-mobilized sediment in between the dunes. Additionally potential secondary bedforms, such as ripples and avalanches, may have been detected. Our findings strongly suggest that sand seas evolve under current multi-directional wind regimes. Consequently sediment inventory and climatic conditions are being re-evaluated.

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A. Lucas, S. Rodriguez, F. Lemonnier, et. al.
Fri, 10 Feb 17

Comments: 38 pages, 10 figures. to be submitted to EPSL journal

Meridional Circulation Dynamics in a Cyclic Convective Dynamo [SSA]

Surface observations indicate that the speed of the solar meridional circulation in the photosphere varies in anti-phase with the solar cycle. The current explanation for the source of this variation is that inflows into active regions alter the global surface pattern of the meridional circulation. When these localized inflows are integrated over a full hemisphere, they contribute to the slow down of the axisymmetric poleward horizontal component. The behavior of this large scale flow deep inside the convection zone remains largely unknown. Present helioseismic techniques are not sensitive enough to capture the dynamics of this weak large scale flow. Moreover, the large time of integration needed to map the meridional circulation inside the convection zone, also masks some of the possible dynamics on shorter timescales. In this work we examine the dynamics of the meridional circulation that emerges from a 3D MHD global simulation of the solar convection zone. Our aim is to assess and quantify the behavior of meridional circulation deep inside the convection zone, where the cyclic large-scale magnetic field can reach considerable strength. Our analyses indicate that the meridional circulation morphology and amplitude are both highly influenced by the magnetic field, via the impact of magnetic torques on the global angular momentum distribution. A dynamic feature induced by these magnetic torques is the development of a prominent upward flow at mid latitudes in the lower convection zone that occurs near the equatorward edge of the toroidal bands and that peaks during cycle maximum. Globally, the dynamo-generated large-scale magnetic field drives variations in the meridional flow, in stark contrast to the conventional kinematic flux transport view of the magnetic field being advected passively by the flow.

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D. Passos, M. Miesch, G. Guerrero, et. al.
Thu, 9 Feb 17

Comments: 26 pages, 16 figures, submitted to A&A

The onset of turbulent rotating dynamos at the low $Pm$ limit [CL]

We demonstrate that the critical magnetic Reynolds number $Rm_c$ for a turbulent non-helical dynamo in the low magnetic Prandtl number $Pm$ limit (i.e. $Pm = Rm/Re \ll 1$) can be significantly reduced if the flow is submitted to global rotation. Even for moderate rotation rates the required energy injection rate can be reduced by a factor more than $10^3$. This strong decrease of the onset is attributed to the reduction of the turbulent fluctuations that makes the flow to have a much larger cut-off length-scale compared to a non-rotating flow of the same Reynolds number. The dynamo thus behaves as if it is driven by laminar behaviour (i.e. high $Pm$ behaviour) even at high values of the Reynolds number (i.e. at low values of $Pm$). Our finding thus points into a new paradigm for the design of new liquid metal dynamo experiments.

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K. Seshasayanan, V. Dallas and A. Alexakis
Wed, 1 Feb 17

Comments: 5 pages, 6 figures

The Origins of Asteroidal Rock Disaggregation: Interplay of Thermal Fatigue and Microstructure [EPA]

The distributions of size and chemical composition in the regolith on airless bodies provides clues to the evolution of the solar system. Recently, the regolith on asteroid (25143) Itokawa, visited by the JAXA Hayabusa spacecraft, was observed to contain millimeter to centimeter sized particles. Itokawa boulders commonly display well-rounded profiles and surface textures that appear inconsistent with mechanical fragmentation during meteorite impact; the rounded profiles have been hypothesized to arise from rolling and movement on the surface as a consequence of seismic shaking. We provide a possible explanation of these observations by exploring the primary crack propagation mechanisms during thermal fatigue of a chondrite. We present the in situ evolution of the full-field strains on the surface as a function of temperature and microstructure, and observe and quantify the crack growth during thermal cycling. We observe that the primary fatigue crack path preferentially follows the interfaces between monominerals, leaving them intact after fragmentation. These observations are explained through a microstructure-based finite element model that is quantitatively compared with our experimental results. These results on the interactions of thermal fatigue cracking with the microstructure may ultimately allow us to distinguish between thermally induced fragments and impact products.

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K. Hazeli, C. Mir, S. Papanikolaou, et. al.
Mon, 16 Jan 17

Comments: 23 pages, 7 figures