One of the big moons of Jupiter may be an ideal place to cool off on a hot summer afternoon — it appears to be shooting a spray of cold water out into space. That provides more confirmation that an ocean lies below the moon’s icy crust — a possible home for life.
Europa is a bit bigger than our own moon. But the two worlds are nothing alike. The surface of Europa consists of ice. It’s divided into large plates and rafts. That arrangement resembles the ice that floats atop the oceans here on Earth. That suggests that the ice on Europa also floats atop an ocean. If so, it could have all the ingredients for life.
What’s more, Hubble Space Telescope has seen evidence of water squirting into space from Europa, possibly spraying through cracks in the crust.
And earlier this year, a team reported more evidence of water plumes. The scientists recently looked through 20-year-old observations by the Galileo spacecraft, which orbited Jupiter. And they found some unusual readings: a blip in the magnetic field, and some odd radio waves. Those readings came as Galileo flew through one of the possible plumes reported by Hubble. And they matched models of what the craft should see if it flew through a spray of water.
Combined with the other evidence, they strongly suggest that Europa has a vast ocean hidden beneath its icy crust.
And Jupiter appears near our moon tonight. The planet looks like a brilliant star to the lower left of the Moon.
Script by Damond Benningfield