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Europa Water Plumes Appear to Erupt From Jupiter's Moon in New Photos

Image: Europa Water Plumes Appear to Erupt From Jupiter's Moon in New Photos

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

By    |   Tuesday, 27 Sep 2016 10:11 AM

Europa water vapor plumes erupting out of Jupiter's moon seem to appear in new photos, bolstering evidence that scientists may not have to drill through ice to collect any future water samples, NASA said in a statement Monday.

While there has been no evidence of life on Europa, the possible presence of water on the moon has made researchers increasingly eager to do more research on it.

"Europa's ocean is considered to be one of the most promising places that could potentially harbor life in the solar system," Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., said, according to the space agency. "These plumes, if they do indeed exist, may provide another way to sample Europa's subsurface."

The huge plumes are believed to rise 125 miles off the moon's surface before coming back down onto Europa's surface, scientists believe. Europa's ocean, which is believed to contain twice as much water as Earth, is protected by a cold, hard shell of ice, according to NASA.

On 10 separate occurrences spanning 15 months, researchers observed Europa passing in front of Jupiter and, on three of those occasions, they observed what appeared to be erupting plumes, NASA noted.

"I'm not aware of any other plausible natural explanation," William Sparks, an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, told reporters Monday, according to CBS News. "The only other possible explanation that we've been considering is the possibility of some internal instrumental effect."

Europa is one of Jupiter's four bright moons that were discovered by Galileo in 1610, according to CBS News. While Europa is about the size of Earth's moon, its possible watery surface makes its composition much different.

NASA made its announcement about Europa's possible water plumes as its space probe Juno is orbiting parent planet Jupiter, sending back historic close-ups of the largest planet in the our solar system, Space.com reported.

Juno has been collecting data on Jupiter's atmosphere, weather, magnetic fields, and formation history and will continue to gather information until 2018.

NASA stated that, if the water vapor plumes are confirmed on Europa, it would be the second moon in the solar system known to have them. The space agency's Cassini orbiter had detected water vapor and dust spewing off the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Cassini will continue to monitor activity on Enceladus until September 2017, noted NASA.

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Europa water vapor plumes erupting out of Jupiter's moon seem to appear in new photos, bolstering evidence that scientists may not have to drill through ice to collect any future water samples, NASA said in a statement Monday.
europa, water, plumes, jupiter, moon
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2016-11-27
Tuesday, 27 Sep 2016 10:11 AM
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