Team using Keck telescope confirms liquid water on one of Jupiter’s moons

19 Novembre, 2019, 17:51 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Team using Keck telescope confirms liquid water on one of Jupiter’s moons

NASA has officially confirmed that it has found traces of water vapor on Europa, which is one of Jupiter's moon.

The discovery was made by an worldwide research team from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Europa, the sixth-largest of Jupiter's known moons, has always been hypothesized to have an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy surface, a theory which was supported by observations by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2013.

Then in 2012, the Hubble Space Telescope revealed evidence of water vapor over Europa's south pole, which scientists believed to be the result of plumes carrying material from beneath its surface out into space. But no one has been able to confirm the presence of water in these plumes by directly measuring the water molecule itself.

But without a space probe to make up-close observations of Europa's surface, NASA has only been able to observe the moon from Earth. "But the third - liquid water - is somewhat hard to find beyond Earth", said Lucas Paganini, a NASA planetary scientist, and also the one who led the water detection operation.

Paganini noted the necessary ingredients for life - including energy sources, liquid water, and chemicals such as oxygen, phosphorus, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur.

For instance, it helps sustain an idea, of which astronomers are quite convinced that there is a liquid water ocean, most likely twice as big as Earth's flooding underneath the moon's incredibly thick ice layer which. After confirming the presence of water, Paganini's team theorized that it may have come from the ocean-sized bodies of water beneath the surface of Europa.

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The researchers think the source of this water is a plume, which could be coming from the buried ocean or from a reservoir of melted ice within Europa's shell.

The spacecraft scheduled for the mission will carry a bunch of cameras, spectrometers, and radars to calculate the thickness of Jupiter's moon icy surface during 45 flybys. After all, past scientific reports have already indicated that liquid water is an essential factor in the formation of alien microbial life.

This NASA artist's concept shows the Galileo spacecraft flying by Jupiter's volcanic moon Io (L) and the enormous planet (R). When researchers analyzed the magnetic disturbances more closely in 2018, they found evidence of possible plumes.

Studies using ground-based telescopes to look for water in deep space have to take into account the distorting effect of water in Earth's atmosphere.

Hopefully, these efforts will further unlock the secrets of Europa and answer the intriguing question of whether it carries the potential for life.

The forthcoming Europa Clipper mission, expected to be launched in the mid-2020s, will give scientists a close look at Europa by sampling those molecules in the atmosphere to decide on whether it is a habitable world.

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