Jupiter's Moon Europa Shoots Water Into Space, New Research Suggests

Tuesday, 15 May, 2018

Now that these plumes have been confirmed, they are regarded to be of great help to the researchers for further studies about the subsurface water body of the Jupiter moon. The new data collected has proven the fact that there appears to be a plume on Europa.

New analysis of data captured by the Galileo space mission 20 years ago revealed further evidence of water spewing into space from Europa's icy inner core.

As Jia and his colleagues report in the journal, Nature Astronomy, the best explanation was the signals were indeed generated by plumes of water coming from Europa. Instruments on the Europa Clipper will have to be sensitive enough to capture the particles from the water plume.

"On one particular pass by Europa, the spacecraft came very, very close to the surface - as I remember less than 150 kilometers (93 miles) above the surface - and it was on that pass that we saw signatures that we never really understood", said Margaret Kivelson, professor emerita of space physics at the University of California, Los Angeles, on Nasa TV.

That was until Xianzhe Jia, a planetary scientist at the University of MI, studied the ancient data and found that plumes did exist based on the unexplained fluctuations in magnetic waves on the moon's surface.

Jia was inspired by the Hubble detections to look back at the Galileo flyby data.

Xianzhe Jia is the first author on Monday's paper and a planetary scientist at the University of MI; he's also working on instruments that will fly on both Clipper and JUICE. The 1997 flyby was close to the site of the repeat detection by Hubble. But he's not the only one thrilled by the new finding. The prevailing theory is the water comes directly from Europa's subsurface ocean and is being driven upward by hydrothermal activity much like that which powers geysers on Earth.

The magnetic field of the world, the group chose to critique the previously-unexplained magnetometer readings from Galileo's Europa flybys employing new, more sophisticated computer calculations.

Whereas Galileo didn't know that it was flying through a plume and was incapable of collecting material from the plume, Europa Clipper will be able to gather material from plumes if it can fly through them. The question of whether there is life on Europa, despite harboring favorable conditions, remains unanswered, but not for too long we suppose. But he remarked that the specific reason why this plume-producing area of Europa seems to be warmer than other areas of the moon isn't well known.

But in 2016, and again in 2017, scientists reported that more Hubble images pointed to the presence of a plume, though something less dramatically exuberant than the geysers of Enceladus, which fly so high that they create a ring around Saturn.

To determine whether Europa is indeed life-friendly and to look for possible evidence of those organisms themselves, scientists want spacecraft much more powerful than Galileo to return to the moon. "The data was already there, but we needed advanced technology to make sense of the observations", Jia said in a statement. "You have to grab the ice grains that are there and see what's inside Europa", Cable says. But that still means an orbiting spacecraft, like the Europa Clipper mission that's tentatively scheduled to launch in the early 2020s, could sample a plume and get a glimpse of what lies beneath the moon's ruddy, crisscrossed rind. If NASA (and the rest of us who care about the search for alien life) get lucky, those jets may be on when the Europa Clipper reaches its destination and starts its science work. Potential passages through a plume would be a bonus, allowing both spacecraft to sniff out any signs of curious oceanic chemistry or even of life carried aloft in the tenuous vapor. No other flybys picked up evidence of these eruptions, though this particular one was the closest that the spacecraft came to Europa's surface.