Journal article Open Access

Latitudinal Distribution of O2on Ganymede: Observations with the Hubble Space Telescope

Calvin, Wendy M.; Spencer, John R.

To help constrain the spatial variation of oxygen on Jupiter's satellite Ganymede, and hence have more clues to its mode of production and stability, we have obtained spectral data from the Faint Object Spectrograph (FOS) for a single pole-to-pole latitudinal strip, along with several Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) images in three narrow band visible filters. All observations were made of the trailing hemisphere. In the FOS data we observe both visible absorptions at 0.577 and 0.627 μm, associated with dense-phase oxygen (compressed gases, liquids, or solids). Filter options limited the WFPC2 observations to wavelengths near the weaker oxygen absorption at 0.627 μm. These observations suggest that the dense-phase or dimer oxygen form is predominantly found in equatorial and mid-latitudes. The spectroscopic absorption feature appears in both bright and dark terrains but may be somewhat weaker in dark regions, which is consistent with the smaller mean photon path length in the surface in darker areas. Therefore, the abundance of oxygen appears more dependent on latitude and longitude constraints than surface albedo. At the highest latitudes, where the ratio spectra have a strong upturn toward the blue, the oxygen bands do not appear. This relation suggests that dimer oxygen and ozone (as seen by Galileo) have opposite trends with latitude. Possible causes include competition or variation in the preferred stable form, which depends on temperature, solar ultraviolet flux, and/or surface age; enhancement of O3at the poles due to plasma interactions; or viewing geometry effects that reduce the oxygen features at the poles when observed from Earth. The predominantly equatorial feature supports the production of O2through plasma bombardment and favors defect trapping over physical adsorption of the dimer molecules in the surface. We briefly consider the implications of Ganymede's magnetosphere for our understanding of O2and O3distribution on Ganymede.

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