Science

Europa water plume: Another step toward living on a moon

Europa water plume: Another step toward living on a moon

A rendering of how NASA researchers believe Galileo flew through plumes of water high above Europa.

This discovery all but confirms Europa should be considered a high-priority peer of another "ocean world" in the outer solar system, namely Saturn's moon Enceladus, which also sports an even more dramatic plume. The geological, compositional and induced magnetic field measurements of Europa show that a salty ocean full of water in its liquid form, situated at about 100 kilometers below the icy surface, is now sprinkling under the moon's frozen crust. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope which is alert enough have spotted such plume over past half-decade, but such data which it collected was within its range. The orbiter had a close encounter with Europa in late 1997, and what at the time was thought to be a odd anomaly in its data is now believed to be evidence that Galileo actually flew through one of Europa's water plumes.

The Galileo spacecraft carried a Plasma Wave Spectrometer (PWS) to measure plasma waves caused by charged particles in gases around Europa's atmosphere.

A new study reveals evidence that Jupiter's icy moon Europa is sending plumes of water into space. Instead, Phillips says, the observation is another clue that can be added to a body of evidence suggesting that Europa does-at least occasionally-vent water into space.

There now seem to be too many lines of evidence to dismiss plumes at Europa. By and large, those model predictions matched their observations, ruling out Jupiter as the source and strengthening the case for watery plumes erupting from Europa's depths. "Those observations will provide crucial information for us to assess Europa's potential for life". The mission will send a highly capable, radiation-tolerant spacecraft into a long, looping orbit around Jupiter to perform repeated close flybys of the icy moon.NASA has selected nine science instruments for the mission. Turtle explained the plumes as quite tenuous, but maybe not "optically thick" Additionally like Cassini, the spacecraft is expected to take a look at sunlight through plumes in an assortment of wavelengths with an infrared spectrograph and thermal imager to describe the pollutants and pollutants which contain them.

NASA originally wanted to use the Clipper mission to land a probe on Europa for direct sampling, and one idea was for a robot melt its way down through the ice and into the waters below, but budget cuts put paid to that.

The US space agency will be buoyed by a new study published online in the journal Nature Astronomy.

'If we can collect a sample of the water, we may determine whether microbial life exists, how it evolved, and how it continues to live in this cold environment with no connection to the atmosphere'.

But the sensitivity of telescopic data is limited, and more was needed to be sure that these were really plumes, the researchers said.

Previous ultraviolet images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 2012 suggested the presence of plumes. But he remarked that the specific reason why this plume-producing area of Europa seems to be warmer than other areas of the moon isn't well known.

"This is significant, because the rest of the planet isn't easy to predict or understand, and it's happening in the warmest spot", said Britney Schmidt, second author on the 2017 Europa study.

"We know that Europa has a lot of the ingredients necessary for life, certainly for life as we know it. We realized we had to go back", Jia said. That's the big picture.


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