NASA confirms water vapour on Jupiters moon Europa

21 Novembre, 2019, 19:37 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • NASA confirms water vapour on Jupiters moon Europa

WASHINGTON-NASA scientists have confirmed, for the first time, the existence of water above the surface of Europa, one of Jupiter's 79 moons.

Scientists have evidence that one of these ingredients, liquid water, is present under the icy surface and may sometimes erupt into space in huge geysers.

An worldwide research team led by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland published a study Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy that confirmed the presence of water vapor on Europa.

These findings have also reignited a longstanding theory that an ocean twice of the ones on Earth lays hidden under the frozen shell. Ice-penetrating radar will measure the thickness of the ice shell covering the ocean, and help search for the subsurface lakes believed to be there - much like those in Antarctica on Earth.

And the new findings could soon reveal the location of this massive alien ocean.

What makes this moon so alluring is the possibility that it may possess all of the ingredients necessary for life. As reported on the website NASA, the researchers were able to confirm the presence of water vapor in the geysers of the heavenly bodies with a telescope installed in Hawaii.

Safety checks took place as the researchers wanted to improve the accuracy of the data and avoid any possible contaminants that could interfere in ground-based observations. The confirmation of water vapor above Europa helps scientists to understand the inner workings of the moon better. Water molecules emit an evident infrared glow when exposed to solar radiation which is the same as the spike observed in infrared data. The team notes that two of the three elements required for life are common in the universe, but liquid water is rare.

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'But the third-liquid water-is somewhat hard to find beyond Earth'.

Yet, the scientists also found that the water appears infrequently, at least in amounts large enough to detect from Earth.

This article has been adapted from its original source. Europa has been passed by several spacecraft as part of scientific studies over the years.

"For me, the interesting thing about this work is not only the first direct detection of water above Europa, but also the lack thereof within the limits of our detection method", said Paganini. On the other hand, the quantities of water rejected are quite impressive. On one of those nights, they detected the signal for water vapor. 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.

The Europa Clipper mission will go into orbit with the aim of learning more about its internal functioning. Clipper will try to take images of any plumes and sample the molecules it finds in the atmosphere with its mass spectrometers.

This adds to the intrigue of other previously discovered factors associated with the potential for life on Europa.

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