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Hubble Telescope Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Bob Eklund Looking Up

Bob Eklund
Looking Up

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon erupts with high-altitude water vapor plumes.

The observation increases the possibility that missions to Europa may be able to sample Europa’s ocean without having to drill through miles of ice.

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

water

The plumes are estimated to rise about 125 miles before, presumably, raining material back down onto Europa’s surface. Europa has a huge global ocean containing twice as much water as Earth’s oceans, but it is protected by a layer of extremely cold and hard ice of unknown thickness.

The team, led by William Sparks of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, observed these finger-like projections while viewing Europa’s edge as it passed in front of Jupiter.

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