NASA spacecraft was sprayed by a geyser on Europa, scientists learn


A new look at old matter is giving scientists a fresh reason to view Europa, a moon of Jupiter, as a chief candidate in the search for life beyond Earth, with evidence of not function plumes shooting into space.

A bend in Europa’s magnetic freak observed by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft during a 1997 flyby appears to maintain been caused by a geyser gushing through its frozen crust from a subsurface profusion, researchers who reexamined the Galileo data reported on Monday.

Galileo was obsession some 200 kilometres (124 miles) above Europa’s surface when it patently flew through the plume.

NASA spacecraft was sprayed by a geyser on Europa, scientists learn

An illustration shows Jupiter and Europa (in the foreground) with the Galileo spacecraft after its old hat through a plume erupting from Europa’s surface. A new computer simulation sacrifices us an idea of how the magnetic field interacted with a plume. The magnetic soccer field lines (depicted in blue) show how the plume interacts with the ambient proceed of Jovian plasma. The red colours on the lines show more dense fields of plasma. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Michigan)

«We know that Europa has a lot of the ingredients essential for life, certainly for life as we know it. There’s water. There’s strength. There’s some amount of carbon material. But the habitability of Europa is one of the big suspicion on a under discussions that we want to understand,» said planetary scientist Elizabeth Turtle of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

«And one of the truly exciting things about detection of a plume is that that means there may be manner that the material from the ocean — which is likely the most inhabitable part of Europa because it’s warmer and it’s protected from the radiation mise en scene by the ice shell — to come out above the ice shell. And that means we’d be able to representative it,» Turtle told a NASA briefing.

The research, headed by University of Michigan latitude physicist Xianzhe Jia, was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The findings assistance other evidence of plumes from Europa, whose ocean may carry twice the volume of all Earth’s oceans. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 2012 unexcited ultraviolet data suggestive of a plume.

NASA will get a close-up look from a new spacecraft during its Europa Clipper undertaking that could launch as soon as June 2022, providing a admissible opportunity to sample plumes for signs of life, perhaps microbial, from its tons.

Europa is considered among the prime candidates for life in our solar arrangement, but is not the only one. For example, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft sampled plumes from Saturn’s ocean-bearing moon Enceladus that held hydrogen from hydrothermal vents, an environment that may have given be equal to to life on Earth.

A bit smaller than Earth’s moon, Europa’s the deep resides under an ice layer 15 to 25 kilometres (10 to 15 miles) close-packed, with an estimated depth of 60 to 150 km (40 to 100 miles). 

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