NASA’s scientists have found water vapour for the first time above the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa

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On the left is a view of Europa taken from 2.9 million kilometers (1.8 million miles) away on March 2, 1979 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. Next is a color image of Europa taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft during its close encounter on July 9, 1979. On the right is a view of Europa made from images taken by the Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. Credits: NASA/JPL

NASA’s scientists have found water vapour for the first time above the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

The team measured the vapor by scrutinizing Europa through one of the world’s biggest telescopes in Hawaii.

Scientists have long suspected Europa may shelter a large liquid water ocean beneath its icy crust that may sometimes eject into space in huge geysers.  But no one has been able to confirm the presence of water in these plumes until now.

The NASA team detected water vapor only once over 17 nights of observations, but believe that even once was enough.

What does this mean?

  • There is a liquid water ocean, possibly twice as big as Earth’s under this moon’s thick icy crust.
  • Another source of water for the plumes could be shallow pools of melted water ice not far below Europa’s surface.

NASA is planning to launch its Europa Clipper mission in 2020, a spacecraft that will fly past Europa several times to gather more information.

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Written by: Preetika Soni. Preetika is a full – time toddler mommy. In the time that is left, she enjoys writing, photography and crochet. She has worked with NDTV, Mumbai and has taught at SCMSophia. 

 

 

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