Weekly Space News: Exciting Developments on Europa
NASA has discovered new evidence of water vapor coming off of the moon Europa!
While the plumes have not yet been proven, they have been potentially detected now by several different missions and methods, including the Hubble Space Telescope. If these plumes do in fact prove to exist, it could be critical for our study of Europa, the sixth-closest moon of Jupiter.
It’s long been suggested that Europa has an ocean underneath all of its ice. If there is water sprouting onto its surface, that could mean that not only is there an ocean, but also that the ocean could be far more accessible for measurements and scientific study than previously thought.
Why? Because the ice on Europa is 10 to 15 miles, or 15 to 25 kilometers, thick -- a very long way for a drill or submersible to have to go. And who knows what’s waiting down there once they arrive! So catching these plumes of water on a flyby mission could be a far more feasible operation.
Plumes would provide a far easier way to detect the composition of this buried ocean, as well as to discover any signs of life. It’s much the same as with exoplanets, where space folks are used to learning a lot from a little in reading the signatures of these worlds.
Now, all we need is a mission to these plumes to see if we can change universal history!
Note: NASA does have potential Europa missions in store, so if you want to find out what secrets the plumes are hiding, write NASA or your local space agency.
Author: Nick Azer; Editor: Susan Emmer