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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

ExoGeysers Confirmed

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, May 14, 2018/Categories: natural history, photography, space science, adventure


                                                          Europa Geysers (credit: Hubble Space Telescope)

Geysers have been confirmed to exist on Jupiter's moon Europa, the remote moon completely encased in ice. Publishing in Nature Astronomy, researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) show evidence of a Europan water plume erupting. The determination was based on data acquired by the Galileo probe on it closest encounter with the moon twenty years ago. The Pasadena lab confirmed the location, duration, and variations of the Galileo probe's measurements to be consistent with plumes with the same characteristics seen previously by the Hubble space telescope in ultraviolet scans of the moon. The Hubble images were blurry as they were captured at the very limit of the telescope's capacity to see the distant moon. NASA now considers Europa: "one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for life".

At JPL, Europa has long been a high priority for space exploration because the salty, water ocean underneath the moon's icy crust the Galileo probe discovered during its mission. NASA is developing the Europa Clipper to launch in 2022. The new spacecraft will be equipped with instruments necessary to determine if Europa possesses the ingredients that could support life as we know it. The new probe will pass close to the moon multiple times and fly through the plumes at different altitudes above the moon's surface. Advanced spectrographic analysis should be able to determine the chemistry of dissolved molecules and if they are the result of biological or chemical processes.

The original goals established for Europa Clipper, still in planning, may have been just expanded by the new geyser confirmations. A lander for Europa may be moved to the 'front burner' for NASA development.



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