NASA Scientists Finally Confirm Presence of Water Vapor on Jupiter Moon Europa

Monday, 18 November 2019 - 1:45PM
Solar System
Monday, 18 November 2019 - 1:45PM
NASA Scientists Finally Confirm Presence of Water Vapor on Jupiter Moon Europa
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YouTube/NASA Goddard
NASA scientists have finally confirmed what they've suspected all along: that it is indeed water vapor – good old life-supporting H2O – being shot into Europa's atmosphere by geysers beneath its icy crust. The discovery was made by researchers at NASA's Goddard Flight Center after viewing Europa through a massive telescope in Hawai'i. The finding, reported today by NASA and published in the journal Nature Astronomy, supports the thesis that an ocean of liquid water lies beneath Europa's surface and could host lifeforms, one of which could even be a sleeping cosmic deity that, once awakened, will surely wreak havoc upon the solar system.


"Essential chemical elements (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur) and sources of energy, two of three requirements for life, are found all over the solar system," said Lucas Paganini, a NASA planetary scientist and lead researcher on the project. "But the third - liquid water - is somewhat hard to find beyond Earth. While scientists have not yet detected liquid water directly, we've found the next best thing: water in vapor form."


Europa, however, is not the only moon in the solar system that is thought to harbor liquid water. Saturn's moon Enceladus has been found to possess similar geysers, possibly containing the "building blocks of life," as we reported last month, while Titan may also have an oceanic subsurface as well. 


While a thorough survey is hampered by the limitations of even the best telescopes, NASA's Europa Clipper mission, set to launch in the next decade, will provide more information about Europa and hopefully map a site where a future landing craft could take samples. 


Let's hope it doesn't rouse any sleeping cosmic deity.


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NASA
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