Scientists have found new evidence of water plumes existing on Jupiter’s moon Europa. The new evidence was presented Monday and gave new hope to those looking to search the moon for signs of extraterrestrial life.
Europa has long been thought to hold a salty ocean about twice the size of Earth’s. Because of its warm water underneath its hard, thick, icy surface, NASA considers Europa a “top candidate” for life on another planet in the Solar System. If water plumes do exist on the moon, NASA hopes to send a robot spacecraft to fly through a plume so it can measure its composition.
NASA has reported evidence of the existence of water plumes on Europa twice before from its Hubble Space Telescope. Those reports caused a lot of debate. The new data reported in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy comes from a much closer up flyby of the now-expired Galileo spacecraft.
According to Phys.org, “experts measured variations in the moon’s magnetic field and plasma waves as measured during Galileo’s close flyby, and found they were ‘consistent’ with the spacecraft crossing a plume.”
The journal stated, “These results provide strong independent evidence of the presence of plumes at Europa. These findings will help plan future missions to Europa, such as NASA’s Europa Clipper and ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer spacecraft, both of which are expected to arrive at Jupiter between the late 2020s and early 2030s.”
– Blair Halliday