Moon of Jupiter prime candidate for alien life after water blast found

15 May, 2018, 22:20 | Author: Jacqueline Daniels
  • Yes, Europa really is sending plumes of water into space

Several images from the Hubble Space Telescope have also suggested that the moon might be venting out plumes, but the latest analysis of the data, which was collected up close on the icy moon, is probably the strongest evidence backing up the theory of subsurface water. If it's confirmed, the finding could help immensely in the search for other forms of life in our solar system.

Nasa reported evidence twice before, from its Hubble Space Telescope, of the existence of water plumes on Europa, though this interpretation has caused much debate. Galileo actually did a flyby of that location, and it was the closest one we ever had.

Old data from the Jupiter probe Galileo shows that it flew through a water plume on the moon of Europa. As claimed by the scientists, this is a typical evidence of water getting generated from a huge water body underneath the moon's frozen crust. NASA's Europa Clipper and the European Space Agency's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) are slated to launch in the early to mid-2020s, both armed with high-resolution cameras and a suite of other sensitive instruments. She worries that instead, the Europa plume may be gushing out from an isolated underground lake, or even just a patch of surface ice evaporating away. The question of whether there is life on Europa, despite harboring favorable conditions, remains unanswered, but not for too long we suppose.

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As suggestive as these results were, they didn't represent a definitive Europa plume discovery, researchers said at the time. It might mean that a planned space mission to Europa - called the Europa Clipper - could be programmed to fly through the plumes in order to sample Europa's liquid ocean, which is buried below this moon's thick ice crust.

In a paper in the journal Nature Astronomy Jia describes how his team build custom 3D modelling code to work out a plume's density and properties, adding in the magnetic data from the Enceladus plume probe.

The Hubble Space Telescope was able to capture images of water escaping from Europa but couldn't be considered definitive proof because of the quality of the images.

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Scientists say that Europe is an important place for study because it can contain three ingredients that are necessary to support life: liquid water, chemical elements for the formation of the cells (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur) and energy. Jia layered the magnetometry and plasma wave signatures into new 3D modeling developed by his team at the University of MI, which simulated the interactions of plasma with solar system bodies. Because geologic processes move material from underground to the surface, the reverse may also be happening, transporting surface materials highly oxidized by Jupiter's harsh radiation down through the ice. Material jetted from a plume and snowing back down onto the moon's surface would make landing sites in close proximity to the plume the most prized spots.

Nasa scientists are on the verge of exploring Jupiter's ocean moon Europa for signs of alien life. Computer simulations created by Xianzhe Jia, a space scientist at the University of MI, showed that a 120-mile-high geyser erupting from a relatively warm patch on Europa would create precisely the same readings. If plumes exist, and we can directly sample what's coming from the interior of Europa, then we can more easily get at whether Europa has the ingredients for life.

"Using the probe we can detect particles, use the mass spectrometer to tell what the atmosphere is made of and sample its very tenuous atmosphere", Elizabeth Turtle, research scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory said in a press conference on Monday. That's the big picture.

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