NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has been used to discover water plumes which are erupting on Jupiter’s moon Europa.
Astronomers have used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to catch images of water vapor plumes which are bursting on Jupiter’s moon Europa. This corroborates previous finding regarding this phenomenon on Europa.
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What this fact assures us of is the certainty that in the future any missions to Europa will be able to obtain samples of water instead of drilling through tons of ice. Europa’s ocean is one of the most likely places for life to be existent in the solar system.
The plumes of water vapor, if they do exist, may be the best means of sampling the substance of Europa’s subsurface liquid. These plumes rise up to 125 miles in the air before settling back on the surface of Europa.
Europa’s global ocean is twice the size of earth’s oceanic waters. However, it is guarded by a thick layer of ice. Finger-like tendrils were seen as Europa passed in front of Jupiter. The goal of the study was to determine whether Europa had a thin atmosphere or an exosphere.
The method used by NASA to determine this was the same that was used to find out whether other planets surrounding stars had a thick or thin atmospheres.
If Europa had a thin atmosphere, it would block some of the light emanating from Jupiter and we would be able to see an outline in shadowy form of this scenario.
In 10 different occurrences spread over 15 months, the team of astronomers observed Europa passing in front of Jupiter. Plumes could be seen erupting on its surface.
Two teams found that their results regarding Europa tallied with each other. The plumes are however seen to erupt and simmer down at their own rates.
If the results get confirmed, Europa could be the second moon to harbor water vapor plumes. The other one is Saturn’s moon, Enceladus. NASA’s James Webb Telescope may be used, specifically its infra red vision, to detect the water vapor plumes on the surface of Europa.
Also a mission may go to Europa soon. This would be spearheaded by NASA and it would have a sizeable payload. Hubble’s unique capability of catching the water vapor plumes as they erupted on Europa is something for which NASA deserves a collective pat on the back.
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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took direct ultraviolet images of the icy moon Europa transiting across the disk of Jupiter. Out of 10 observations, Hubble saw what may be water vapor plumes on three of the images. This adds another piece of supporting evidence to the existence of water vapor plumes on Europa; Hubble also detected spectroscopic signatures of water vapor in 2012. Credits: Goddard/Katrina Jackson