NASA Discovers Evidence Of Water Vapor Venting From Europa

Thursday, 12 December 2013 - 11:26AM
Space
Astrobiology
Europa
Thursday, 12 December 2013 - 11:26AM
NASA Discovers Evidence Of Water Vapor Venting From Europa

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered signs of massive water vapor vents on the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. The discovery, announced today, is the latest clear indication that liquid water exists under the icy surface of Europa and one more notch in the argument for a full scientific exploration of its surface.

 

Lorenz Roth, the lead author of the research had this to say about the findings:

 

"By far the simplest explanation for this water vapor is that it erupted from plumes on the surface of Europa. If those plumes are connected with with the subsurface water ocean we are confident exists under Europa's crust, then this means that future investigations can directly investigate the chemical makeup of Europa's potentially habitable environment without drilling through layers of ice. And that is tremendously exciting."

 

Exciting indeed. This discovery may well speed up the chances of a mission to the icy world, which is considered by many to hold our best hopes of finding traces of life within our solar system. Removing the complication of having to drill through Europa's icy crust would make a potential mission to the moon that bit easier and I would hope that NASA's planning committee start looking at such a mission as a great deal more viable. 

 

The plumes discovered on Europa are thought to be very similar to those found on another of Jupiter's moons, Enceladus, although with one key difference. Europa's gravitational pull is around 12 times that of Enceladus, which means that whereas the water vapor spouting from Enceladus eventually escapes into space, the plumes on Europa are dragged back down to the surface. We're not talking Old Faithful here either. The vents on Europa shoot the water vapor a massive 125 miles into the air before making their journey back down.

 

These findings were only made possible after a series of high-risk upgrades were made to the Hubble Telescope, which made it possible for its sensors to detect such activity. 

 

Its safe to say that this was one risk that was totally worth it.

 

For more information on these findings, visit:

Science
NASA
Space
Astrobiology
Europa