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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Europa's Water

Europa's Water

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, November 18, 2019/Categories: natural history, photography, space science, environment, adventure

                                  Artist concept, Europa Clipper Mission (credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech)

Jupiter's moon Europa has excited interest since the Voyager probes in the mid-1970's fly past the moon and glimpsed its icy surface. The excitement increased when the Galileo mission orbited Jupiter and captured detailed photographs of a moon covered in ice with massive cracks and colored streaks. Measurements of the Europa's orbit and the tidal forces produced by Jupiter indicated a water ocean lay beneath the global shell of ice. Estimates indicated the water on Europa was twice the volume found in the Earth's oceans. Now, analysis from the Keck Telescope in Hawai'i has proven that water vapor erupts from the surface of the moon near the poles. Gathering evidence of water vapor, perhaps from erupting geysers, was almost at the limit of the telescope's level of infrared detection to analyze for H2O molecules in any available vapor.

With this discovery, Europa joins the Earth as only other body solar system body where water is known to exist in solid, liquid, and gaseous forms. NASA's Europa Clipper mission will launch in the 2020's to place a probe in orbit and continue gathering measurements of Europa's icy surface, interior ocean, and evidence for habitability.

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