Hidden water vapor has just been discovered on Europa’s icy surface


After studying years of ancient Hubble space observations, a scientist has just discovered entirely new signs of water vapor persisting in Europe. When it comes to our Solar System, there are certain destinations that tend to be the center of attention. Mars is the focal point for many people right now, there is a resurgent interest in the Moon and everything else tends to take a back seat in mainstream conversations. However, one location that is rapidly increasing in interest is Europe.

Europa is one of the four Galilean moons that orbit Jupiter. It is the sixth largest known moon in the Solar System, has an ice-covered surface and is believed to have vast liquid oceans beneath its hard exterior. Many people in the space and scientific communities believe that extraterrestrial life lives in that ocean deep under the surface of Europa. Europa may not get the same attention as its cousins ​​Mars and the Moon, but it has countless secrets waiting to be discovered.

This latest discovery comes from the hard work of Lorenz Roth, a fellow at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Space and Plasma Physics in Sweden. After analyzing Hubble’s observations of Europe between 1999 and 2015, was revealed that there is a constant stream of water vapor in a particular hemisphere of the moon. Hubble previously found water vapor in Europa in 2013 when it captured plumes rising through the ice (similar to geysers on Earth). However, this latest finding suggests that water vapor is much more prevalent than anyone thought.

The observations that led to this discovery included numerous images and spectra that Hubble captured during that 16-year period. Specifically, Roth analyzed the ultraviolet readings Hubble took of Europa in 1999, 2012, 2014, and 2015, choosing these years to look at Europa while it was in different orbital positions. This is the same technique NASA used to find water vapor on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede in July. According to Roth, “The observation of water vapor on Ganymede, and on the back side of Europa, advances our understanding of the atmospheres of icy moons. However, detecting a stable water abundance in Europa is a bit more surprising than on Ganymede. because the surface temperatures of Europa are lower than those of Ganymede. “ Although Europa is roughly 60 ° F cooler than Ganymede, these findings confirm that water vapor is forming in Europa in exactly the same way.

As mentioned above, water vapor was discovered in only one hemisphere of Europa, specifically, its ‘final hemisphere’. As NASA explains, this is the part of Europa that “It is always opposite to its direction of motion throughout its orbit.” The second “main” hemisphere of Europa is the one that moves in the direction of its orbit. NASA does not fully understand the reason for this division in motion. For whatever reason, the posterior hemisphere houses an abundant amount of vapor that the anterior hemisphere lacks.

Even with the oddities surrounding this discovery, it is still a huge win for everyone. Scientists and astronomers now have a clearer understanding of Europa’s atmosphere and the water vapor that is present there. This information will also prove extremely valuable for future missions to Europe. The European Space Agency plans to explore Europa as part of its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission, as does NASA with the Europa Clipper mission in 2024. There is much that is unknown about Europa, but as we continue to move in this direction, many will soon be will reveal one of your most important questions.

Source: POT




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