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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Extraterrestrial Physics Decifered

Extraterrestrial Physics Decifered

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, June 27, 2018/Categories: natural history, video, space science, art and design, environment, adventure

Jupiter's moon Europa is a "water world" encased in ice. The crust covers a moon-sized ocean containing more water than all of the oceans on Earth. The moon is considered a target of "high interest" for potentially finding life beyond Earth in that world's ocean. Numerous cracks appear across the Europa's icy surface that are caused by Jupiter's constant gravitational tugging on the moon as it circles the giant planet. How these cracks were formed has been a question ever since the first images of Europa were received from the Galileo probe when it went into Jupiter orbit in 1995.

                              Cracks in Europa's Ice Crust (credit: Galileo Mission/JPL)

In a fascinating example of deductive reasoning, the mystery of Europa's cracks appears to have been solved by NASA physicists. They outlined their analysis in a clever animation of the process from Earth-based comparisons.

Europa has many unusual features including the potential of water geysers. They may have been observed erupting from ice cracks in Europa's south polar region. Current telescopes don't have enough resolution to determine if they actually exist but the evidence is strong. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) currently being constructed by NASA will launch in 2021. It has the capability to view the moon in great detail and answer the question for certain. A follow-on Europa orbiter and lander mission is in the planning stages at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Many cool discoveries await.

WHB

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