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Hubble, Galileo data provide more evidence of feathers across Europe



  A cut-out illustration of an underground ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa and feathers erupting from its surface. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

A cut-out illustration of an underground ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa and feathers erupting from its surface. Photo credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech

After reviewing data from a previous mission to the Jupiter system, scientists found evidence of a cloud erupting from Jupiter's moon Europa, which, according to NASA, suggests that the sub-surface ocean can actually release water vapor Cracks in its icy surface.

In 2012, NASA revealed ultraviolet images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, which pointed to the existence of feathers that erupted from the surface of Europe. It was the first strong evidence of such eruptions from the icy world.

However, after a re-examination of the magnetometer data of a 1997 Europe flyby in which Galileo was observed orbiting Jupiter between 1995 and 2003, within about 200 kilometers of the Moon's surface, Scientists are passing this information through "new and advanced computer models" to better understand an inexplicable "bend" in the planet's magnetic field. The new analysis, combined with 2012 Hubble images is considered "strong and underpinning support for feather throws",

  A representation of the Galileo probe flying through a cloud erupting from Europe. The lines represent the magnetic field and how the cloud interacts with it. Source: NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Michigan

A representation of the Galileo spacecraft flying through a cloud breaking out of Europe. The lines represent the magnetic field and how the cloud interacts with it. Image credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Michigan

Old Data Provides New Insights


Scientists say Europe is an important exploration target as it could contain the three ingredients needed for life become: liquid water; chemistry necessary for life, including carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur; and energy. The presence of feathers on Europe provides evidence of the third ingredient energy in the form of heat.

The scientists shared the latest findings on a May 14, 2018 Science Chat including Lori Glaze, deputy director of the Planetary Science Division of NASA; Xianzhe Jia, associate professor in the Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Elizabeth Turtle, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland; and Margaret Kivelson, Emeritus Professor of Space Physics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Kivelson served as the chief investigator for the Galileo spacecraft magnetometer orbiting Jupiter, making 11 flyaways from Europe between 1995 and 2003.

The science team for the upcoming Europa Clipper mission was interested in reviewing the Galileo data After Hubble had taken ultraviolet images of suspected feathers across Europe

based on the Hubble images as well, the discoveries of the Cassini missile circling Saturn [2004/05] and 2004 showed that Materials of feathers on his moon Enceladus with the magnetic field alternated of the ring planet, the team decided to check the previously unresolved magnetometer readings of Galileo's Europe flyby with new, more advanced computer algorithms

Through this analysis they were able to disturb the magnetic field in Europe, indicating that Ga lileo had flown through a kind of cloud in 1997.

Europe's icy surface, which could reach up to 10 to 15 miles (16-24 kilometers) thick, is suspected of hiding a global ocean. Like Earth, it is believed that Europe has an iron core, a rocky mantle and an ocean of salt water. However, the ocean of Europe could have an estimated depth of 40-100 miles (65-160 kilometers), twice as much as all the other oceans on Earth combined.

In addition, Europe's ice is broken into numerous linear fractures in which the ice is cracked. There, material could rise from below into the gap. Any feathers arising from the lunar surface are probably caused by cryovolcanism, scientists say.

Cryovulcanism is what happens when materials are launched into space by the force of Jupiter gravity that bends the lunar surface. However, instead of lava, these cryovucans emit liquid water or other volatile materials.

The presumed European flag was identified by a thermal anomaly at the surface. Jia said that "the area has an elevated temperature compared to its surroundings". He pointed out, however, that the exact reason why this dump-producing region of Europe appears to be warmer than other parts of the moon is not well understood. He said that the heat for the springs could be the result of internal mechanisms, surface material or other processes.

  An illustration of NASA's Europa Clipper mission that is flying past Europe. Source: NASA / JPL-Caltech

An artist recording NASA's Europa Clipper mission with a flyby of Europe. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Evidence of life?


If this finding confirmed the case for the potential life in Europe, none of the scientists in the chat would point this out directly.

"We know there is life in Lake Wostok in the Antarctic, and the temperature there is minus 80 degrees Celsius [minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit]," said Joanna Wendel, the communications executive of the Planetary Science Division.

The surface temperature in Europe is minus 274 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 170 degrees Celsius), but if the water is liquid under the surface ice, it would be much warmer. Even if the water in the icy waters of Europe contains a large amount of salts and the freezing temperature is lower than on Earth, it would still be warm enough to be liquid.

Impact on Future Missions


NASA is in the planning phase for the Europa Clipper project, which is expected to launch in 2022 on the way to Jupiter, possibly aboard the Space Launch System ( SLS) ). Although the spacecraft is not specifically aimed at finding life, it is expected to provide a detailed study of Europe to determine if conditions exist that favor earth-like life. The results, released on May 14, indicate specific areas where the mission could fly when it arrives.

Turtle said Spaceflight Insider that Europe's Clipper 44 will make close fly-bys of the Moon, many within 100 kilometers. (19659009) "This allows us to look very closely at the surface and make it easier to study the atmosphere because more material will be closer to the surface," Turtle said. "It's also better to measure the magnetic field."

Europa Clipper, like Cassini, should be able to fly through the feathers of the moon without danger to the spaceship. Turtle described the feathers as very thin, but not as "visually thick." Like Cassini, it is expected that the spacecraft uses plumes at different wavelengths to study the Sun using a UV spectrograph and a thermal imaging device to characterize the gases and particles

The spacecraft is being developed to carry a range of instruments, including cameras and spectrometers for remote observation and on-site measurements with a magnetometer and a mass spectrometer. It is also planned to carry a probe radar that should allow Europe Clipper to see the structure of the ice miles below the surface.

Courtesy of NASA JPL

Tagged: Europe Europe Clipper Galileo Jet Propulsion Laboratory Jupiter Lead Stories NASA

Bart Leahy

Bart Leahy lives as a freelance technical writer Orlando Florida. Leahy's diverse career includes work for the Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofit organizations and the Science Cheerleader.


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