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NASA's Europa 'Surprise' on Monday Won't Be About Aliens

Image: NASA's Europa 'Surprise' on Monday Won't Be About Aliens

Scientists will discuss "surprising" activity on Jupiter's icy moon, Europa, during a teleconference Monday. (NASA)

By    |   Friday, 23 Sep 2016 11:36 AM

NASA's observations of Europa are the topic of an announcement about "surprising" activity on Jupiter's ice-covered moon coming Monday, but the planned teleconference is set to discuss a possible subsurface ocean and not aliens.

Scientists will talk about the Hubble Space Telescope findings at 2 p.m. Eastern time Monday, according to the space agency's statement.

"Astronomers will present results from a unique Europa observing campaign that resulted in surprising evidence of activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean on Europa," the NASA statement said.

Paul Hertz, NASA's director of astrophysics in Washington, D.C.; William Sparks, an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore; Britney Schmidt, an Earth and atmospheric sciences professor at Georgia Tech; and Jennifer Wiseman, a senior Hubble project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will participate in the news conference.

NASA's announcement fueled speculation about alien life.

"Most scientists agree that where there is water, it massively increases the chances of finding life," Sean Martin of Express.com wrote. "Many however already believe that aliens are residing on Europa."

NASA, though, appeared to throw cold water on the idea of ocean aliens on Europa with a Twitter post Wednesday clarifying its announcement. 

"The discovery is more likely to relate to water vapor 'plumes' that Hubble spotted high above the moon in 2012, but which have not been seen again," Andrew Griffin of The Independent wrote. "If the plumes are shown to be linked to the moon's sub-surface ocean, it would make the job of investigating the habitable potential of Europa much easier. Instead of having to drill through the moon's thick, icy shell, scientists could analyze the chemical content of the plumes."

The mysterious news conference comes as NASA's space probe Juno is orbiting Europa's parent planet Jupiter, sending back historic close-ups of the largest planet in the our solar system. Juno is in the process of completing 36 orbital flybys of Jupiter at 130,000 miles per hour, 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. The probe will then plunge into Jupiter's atmosphere.

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NASA's observations of Europa are the topic of an announcement about surprising activity on Jupiter's ice-covered moon coming Monday, but the planned teleconference is set to discuss a possible subsurface ocean and not aliens.
nasa, europa, surprise, aliens
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2016-36-23
Friday, 23 Sep 2016 11:36 AM
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