MAY 15, 2018 5:55 PM PDT

Reexamination of Galileo Spacecraft Data Validates How Plumes Erupt From Europa

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

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
JUL 29, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
The Most Distant Rotating Galaxy was Formed 13.3 billion years ago
JUL 29, 2022
The Most Distant Rotating Galaxy was Formed 13.3 billion years ago
MACS1149-JD1, aka JD1, is a galaxy about 13.3 billion years away from us, meaning the light from that galaxy takes 13.3 ...
AUG 05, 2022
Space & Astronomy
First Detection of a Compact, Massive Triple Star System
AUG 05, 2022
First Detection of a Compact, Massive Triple Star System
Two researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen are studying an usually compact system of th ...
OCT 15, 2022
Technology
Grad Student Highlights: Trupti Mahendrakar (Florida Institute of Technology)
OCT 15, 2022
Grad Student Highlights: Trupti Mahendrakar (Florida Institute of Technology)
Trupti Mahendrakar is a PhD student in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical/Space Engineering at the Florida Instit ...
OCT 16, 2022
Space & Astronomy
NASA's Chandra X-ray Telescope Provides a New Perspective for James Webb Space Telescopes Images
OCT 16, 2022
NASA's Chandra X-ray Telescope Provides a New Perspective for James Webb Space Telescopes Images
In the summer of 2022, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) released its very first images to the public. Now, ...
NOV 11, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
Grad Student Highlights: Andrew Saydjari (Harvard University)
NOV 11, 2022
Grad Student Highlights: Andrew Saydjari (Harvard University)
This interview series is focused on the graduate student experience across all STEM fields that allows them to get their ...
NOV 17, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Measure Size of 11-Billion-Year-Old Star
NOV 17, 2022
Astronomers Measure Size of 11-Billion-Year-Old Star
In a recent study published in Nature, an international team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota successfu ...
Loading Comments...