Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Europa water plume: Another step toward living on a moon

Europa water plume: Another step toward living on a moon

These changes, the scientists believe, are consistent with images of the moon taken by the Hubble space telescope thought to show water ejecting from Europa's surface.

Xianzhe Jia, a planetary scientist at the University of MI, heard astronomers suspected the plumes sat on the moon's equator, but couldn't get a good look at them with the Hubble Space Telescope, he told NPR.

New research on a sort-of old set of data points toward a water plume on Jupiter's moon Europa. Philips noted that collected plume material might not even be a direct sample of ocean water, but it would still "yield important insights into the composition of materials within Europa, and the potential for habitability-could there be environments on Europa where life could survive?" She's looking forward to NASA's next mission to the giant planet. The plumes of water vapor likely originate from this ocean.

It is thought to have an iron core, a rocky mantle and a surface ocean of salty water, like Earth.

Europa is among the most enticing destinations of the Solar System to pursue the presence of life beyond the Earth.

Near Enceladus' south pole, more than 100 individual geysers continuously blast water ice, organic molecules and other material far out into space - so far that this plume stuff forms Saturn's E ring. Scientists think that this spike in energy particles may have been the probe flying through a water plume.

An artist's illustration of a plume of water vapour from Jupiter's moon Europa. Galileo flew by Europa a total of 11 times. The model simulations that included plumes from Europa closely matched the Galileo data, but the model without them did not.

The team used numerical models to try to explain exactly what Galileo saw on that fateful day in 1997, revealing that the spacecraft likely got sprayed with water shooting from Europa when it made a flyby of the moon.

"The Hubble observations are circumstantial evidence that plumes could have been present more recently, starting in 2012". For example, in the 2014 and 2016 candidate detections, the possible plumes blocked some ultraviolet light emitted by Jupiter.

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Space scientists have just figured out that an unusual anomaly from over 20 years ago was the equivalent of a space probe being squirted in the face.

The new data, reported in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy, comes from measurements made from much closer up during a flyby of NASA's now-expired Galileo spacecraft.

Scanning the Canadian lakes for signs of basic microbial life could help scientists in the upcoming Clipper mission which will look for alien life on Europa.

"These findings will help plan future missions to Europa, such as NASA's Europa Clipper and ESA's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer spacecraft, both of which are expected to arrive at Jupiter between the late 2020s and early 2030s", said a Nature summary.

NASA officials have also said they'd like Clipper to dive through Europa's putative plumes, if possible, to potentially grab fresh samples of the moon's ocean (if plume material is indeed coming directly from that ocean). He learned that they were near the equator of Europa, a region Galileo had flown directly over in 1997.

The results were in "satisfying agreement", Jia said.

Such activity may be caused by different individual jets or geysers turning on and off over time, he added.

"To detect a plume for certain, we'll have to return to the Jupiter system, and NASA's Europa Clipper spacecraft, now in development, will do just that", Phillips said.

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