NASA confirms liquid water is present under the ice of Jupiter’s moon Europa, reigniting the theory there is an ocean twice the size of the ones on Earth hidden beneath the surface
- NASA scientists saw water molecules at Europa’s leading hemisphere
- The team confirmed the moon releases 5,000 pounds of water per second
- Reignited a theory that an ocean twice of the ones on Earth is under the shell
- NASA has theorized that Europa had water underneath its shell for many years
NASA has confirmed the presence of liquid water on one of Jupiter’s 79 moons.
The American Space agency detected plume-like forms of water vapor above Europa’s icy surface, which were detected as a wavelength of emitted infrared light.
The research showed the moon releases more than 5,000 pounds of water per second – enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in only a few minutes.
These findings have also reignited a longstanding theory that an ocean twice of the ones on Earth lays hidden under the frozen shell.
Given the suspected abundance of warm, liquid water under its mile-thick ice shell, the moon is considered a ‘top candidate’ by NASA for life on a solar system body other than Earth.
NASA has confirmed the presence of water vapor on one of Jupiter’s 79 moons. The American Space agency detected plume-like forms of water vapor above Europa’s (artist impression) icy surface, which were detected as a wavelength of emitted infrared light
And the new findings could soon reveal the location of this massive alien ocean.
The discovered was made by an international research team led out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who used the world’s largest telescopes in Hawaii to measure the vapor flowing out of Europa.
This is not the first time NASA has discussed the possibility of water vapor on the moon, as just last year researchers involved with the Galileo mission revealed the spacecraft may have flown right through a plume roughly 20 years ago.
However, researchers have been able to produce evidence that proves these allegation.
The discovered was made by an international research team led out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who used the world’s largest telescopes in Hawaii to measure the vapor flowing out of Europa
Left is a view of Europa taken from 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
The team was able to detect the faint signal of water vapor just once over a period of 17 nights they observed from 2016 and 2017.
Looking at the moon from Keck Observatory, the scientists saw water molecules at Europa’s leading hemisphere, or the side of the moon that’s always facing in the direction of the moon’s orbit around Jupiter.
They used Keck Observatory’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSPEC), which measures the chemical composition of planetary atmospheres through the infrared light they emit or absorb.
Molecules such as water emit specific frequencies of infrared light as they interact with solar radiation.
Looking at the moon from Keck Observatory, the scientists saw water molecules at Europa’s leading hemisphere, or the side of the moon that’s always facing in the direction of the moon’s orbit around Jupiter. The team believes the vapor comes from an ocean beneath the core
Lucas Paganini, a NASA planetary scientist who led the water detection investigation said: ‘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.’
‘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.’
WHAT DID CASSINI DISCOVER DURING ITS 20-YEAR MISSION TO SATURN?
Cassini launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1997, then spent seven years in transit followed by 13 years orbiting Saturn.
An artist’s impression of the Cassini spacecraft studying Saturn
In 2000 it spent six months studying Jupiter before reaching Saturn in 2004.
In that time, it discovered six more moons around Saturn, three-dimensional structures towering above Saturn’s rings, and a giant storm that raged across the planet for nearly a year.
On 13 December 2004 it made its first flyby of Saturn’s moons Titan and Dione.
On 24 December it released the European Space Agency-built Huygens probe on Saturn’s moon Titan to study its atmosphere and surface composition.
There it discovered eerie hydrocarbon lakes made from ethane and methane.
In 2008, Cassini completed its primary mission to explore the Saturn system and began its mission extension (the Cassini Equinox Mission).
In 2010 it began its second mission (Cassini Solstice Mission) which lasted until it exploded in Saturn’s atmosphere.
In December 2011, Cassini obtained the highest resolution images of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.
In December of the following year it tracked the transit of Venus to test the feasibility of observing planets outside our solar system.
In March 2013 Cassini made the last flyby of Saturn’s moon Rhea and measured its internal structure and gravitational pull.
Cassini didn’t just study Saturn – it also captured incredible views of its many moons. In the image above, Saturn’s moon Enceladus can be seen drifting before the rings and the tiny moon Pandora. It was captured on Nov. 1, 2009, with the entire scene is backlit by the Sun
In July of that year Cassini captured a black-lit Saturn to examine the rings in fine detail and also captured an image of Earth.
In April of this year it completed its closest flyby of Titan and started its Grande Finale orbit which finished on September 15.
‘The mission has changed the way we think of where life may have developed beyond our Earth,’ said Andrew Coates, head of the Planetary Science Group at Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London.
‘As well as Mars, outer planet moons like Enceladus, Europa and even Titan are now top contenders for life elsewhere,’ he added. ‘We’ve completely rewritten the textbooks about Saturn.’