The elusive and mysterious jets of water from the moon of Jupiter really seem real.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered indirect evidence of such loops coming from Europe, which is believed to be fraught with a huge salty ocean under an ice shell. Researchers have now discovered for the first time the water vapor of one such plume, a new study reports.
“The main chemical elements (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur) and energy sources, two of the three requirements for life, are found everywhere solar system“But the third, liquid water, is hard to find outside the Earth,” said lead researcher Lucas Paganini, planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and American University of Washington, DC.
“Although scientists have not yet discovered liquid water directly, we found the next best thing: water in the form of steam,” Paganini added.
Connected: Possible water feathers in Europe: discovery in images
Paganini and his colleagues used V.M. The Keck Observatory in Hawaii is exploring Europe with a width of 1900 miles (3100 km), which astrobiologists consider one of the solar system the best rates for alien life,
Researchers observed Europa for 17 nights, from February 2016 to May 2017. On one of these nights – April 26, 2016 – they received a strong water vapor signal in the form of the characteristic wavelength of the emitted infrared light.
And this was quite a bit – about 2300 tons (2095 metric tons), according to the calculations of researchers. This is almost enough to fill an Olympic-sized pool (which contains about 2750 tons, or 2500 metric tons of water).
Researchers believe that the source of this water is a plume that can come from a buried ocean or from a reservoir of melted ice in the shell of Europe. To begin with, the observed volume is much higher than predicted as a result of "exogenous" processes, such as the removal of water molecules from the surface of Europe by the powerful radiation belts of Jupiter. And such undressing is likely to occur quite regularly, or at least often enough to be noticed for more than one night out of 17, wrote Paganini and his team in new article, which was published online today (November 18) in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Numerous evidence points to the existence of trains in Europe. For example, in addition to new findings and Hubble's discovery of atomic hydrogen and oxygen (which supposedly came from water molecules separated by radiation), the NASA Galileo Jupiter probe measured a large increase in plasma density, or ionized gas, during the flight of Europe in 1997.
And it is becoming increasingly apparent that the plumes of Europe are sporadic. In this respect, they are very different from the permanent plume reaching from the south pole of the icy moon of Saturn hidden from the ocean Enceladuswhich is generated by over 100 powerful geysers that are always on.
“For me, an interesting feature of this work is not only the first direct detection of water over Europe, but also its absence as part of our detection method,” said Paganini.
Plumes, similar to those coming from Enceladus and Europe, are very interesting for astrobiologists because they send “free samples” from a potentially inhabited environment to space for possible capture by robotic probes. And there is a chance that the NASA spacecraft could soon do this if everything worked correctly.
NASA is developing a mission called Europe Clipper, which is scheduled to be launched in the mid-2020s. Clipper will revolve around Jupiter, but explore Europe on dozens of flying flies, describing the moon and its ocean and looking for places where a potential life buoy could land in the future. Clipper can ultimately sort out a loop of one or more of these flybys if mission team members recognize enough about this feature in the coming years – or if they are just lucky.