Circumplanetary disk ices: II. Composition

N. Oberg*, S. Cazaux, I. Kamp, T. M. Bründl, W. F. Thi, C. Immerzeel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Context. The subsurface oceans of icy satellites are among the most compelling among the potentially habitable environments in our Solar System. The question of whether a liquid subsurface layer can be maintained over geological timescales depends on its chemical composition. The composition of icy satellites is linked to that of the circumplanetary disk (CPD) in which they form. The CPD accretes material from the surrounding circumstellar disk in the vicinity of the planet, however, the degree of chemical inheritance is unclear. Aims. We aim to investigate the composition of ices in chemically reset or inherited circumplanetary disks to inform interior modeling and the interpretation of in situ measurements of icy solar system satellites, with an emphasis on the Galilean moon system. Methods. We used the radiation-thermochemical code ProDiMo to produce circumplanetary disk models and then extract the ice composition from time-dependent chemistry, incorporating gas-phase and grain-surface reactions. Results. The initial sublimation of ices during accretion may result in a CO2 -rich ice composition due to efficient OH formation at high gas densities. In the case of a Jovian CPD, the sublimation of accreted ices results in a CO2 iceline between the present-day orbits of Ganymede and Callisto. Sublimated ammonia ice is destroyed by background radiation while drifting towards the CPD midplane. Liberated nitrogen becomes locked in N2 due to efficient self-shielding, leaving ices depleted of ammonia. A significant ammonia ice component remains only when ices are inherited from the circumstellar disk. Conclusions. The observed composition of the Galilean moons is consistent with the sublimation of ices during accretion onto the CPD. In this scenario, the Galilean moon ices are nitrogen-poor and CO2 on Callisto is endogenous and primordial. The ice composition is significantly altered after an initial reset of accreted circumstellar ice. The chemical history of the Galilean moons stands in contrast to the Saturnian system, where the composition of the moons corresponds more closely with the directly inherited circumstellar disk material.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA142
Number of pages15
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Astrochemistry
  • Methods: numerical
  • Planets and satellites: composition
  • Planets and satellites: formation
  • Protoplanetary disks


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