MAY 15, 2018 05:55 PM PDT

Reexamination of Galileo Spacecraft Data Validates How Plumes Erupt From Europa

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft got up close and personal with the Jovian moon Europa back in 1997, and researchers have just taken a fresh new look at the data collected by both Galileo’s magnetometer and plasma wave spectrometer instruments.

Europa, one of Jupiter's many moons, is pictured above.

Image Credit: NASA

Upon closer examination, the researchers found substantial evidence to validate the longstanding notion that water plumes erupt from beneath Europa’s surface into space. They’ve published their findings in the journal Nature Astronomy this week.

But if scientists already knew that Europa sported plumes, then how are these findings at all significant? As it turns out, the only previous evidence for plumes on Europa were some fuzzy images snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope, but they were too blurry to reach certain conclusions.

The reexamined Galileo data, on the other hand, offers hard evidence to support the idea that these plumes erupted precisely where astronomers spotted them with the Hubble Space Telescope. That said, it’s like a eureka moment that has been realized more than two decades later.

Related: NASA wants to send a space submarine to Titan

Interest in exploring exoplanetary moons such as Enceladus and Titan has grown exponentially among scientists in recent years, as these moons sport potentially-habitable environments. The validation that Europa does, in fact, sport water plumes supports the argument for exploring these worlds up close.

Planetary scientists think that Europa hosts a sub-surface ocean and that these water plumes are tantamount to pressure release valves. If true, then life could exist just beneath Europa’s hard and icy surface.

To find out for sure, NASA would need to send a series of missions to Europa with ground-penetrating radar capabilities, among other things. Fortunately, NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft, planned for launch in the 2020’s, could provide some much-needed insight.

Related: Is Europa our best chance at finding life in the solar system?

The findings after reexamining the old Galileo data bump up the urgency for such missions. That said, it should be interesting to see what we’ll find when we get there.

Source: Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 22, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
AUG 22, 2018
The Universe is Expanding, But How Fast?
Since the Big Bang, our universe has never ceased expanding. The rate of cosmic expansion, now known as the Hubble Constant, was first defined by Belgian a...
SEP 02, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 02, 2018
International Space Station Crew Repairs Small Air Leak
The International Space Station is an Earth-orbiting laboratory that operates in the vacuum of outer space. That said, it needs to maintain a constant air...
SEP 24, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 24, 2018
Earth's History May Hold Clues About Where to Look for Otherworldly Vegetation
Astronomers restlessly search for distant exoplanets, not only because they can teach us more about the planet we live on, but also because they may contai...
OCT 23, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 23, 2018
NASA Fixes Hubble's Gyroscope Issue, Tests Planned for Near Future
On October 5th, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope experienced a troublesome gyroscope malfunction. Onboard software attempted to rectify the issue by kic...
NOV 04, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 04, 2018
Mass Destruction-Causing Solar Events Could Be Lurking Around the Corner
The Sun, the center of our planetary system, is always nurturing and providing. But when it is having a "bad" day, we on Earth could be taking so...
NOV 18, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 18, 2018
All About NASA's Plan to Drill Deeper Into Mars Than Ever Before
When NASA’s InSight lander arrives at Mars, it will land near the planet’s equator at Elysium Planitia. This location is flat, which is ideal f...
Loading Comments...